For the past few months, I have been nerdily addicted to television series American Colony: Meet the Hutterites on the National Geographic Channel. For some reason, whenever I think about how to describe it, Jersey Shore pops up in my mind, but I think it’s only similar in the way that the show is structured and because of the surprising amount of drama and humor that the main characters face. The series follows a group of King Colony Hutterites in Montana and the struggle between preserving and challenging traditional values.
Recently though, there have been statements made by the colony expressing their disappointment in the series and how it did not truly depict how Hutterites everywhere live, even claiming that many scenes were staged. The show’s producers still affirm that the program was accurate in depicting experiences in that particular colony and that Hutterite elders are pressuring individuals to negatively attack the program.
I can’t help but think that there is still something strange about both arguments. From what Hutterites who were actually shown on the show have said, it does seem like some scenes were staged to happen, but it makes me wonder why they would actually go through taking part in them. It doesn’t seem like it would fall in line with Hutterite ethics to knowingly stage scenes and create a different portrayal of Hutterite culture when they knew it would appear on television, unless part of them actually did agree with what they were portraying. Even if some argue that producers manipulated the youth, a good amount of those who were featured on the show were also adults who were part of several key storylines throughout.
The show followed particular experiences of a particular group in a particular colony. I can understand that viewers may believe that this would be a representation of Hutterites everywhere, but I don’t necessarily think that was intended as the beginning of each episode always acknowledged that these were the Hutterites from King Colony and that there were around sixty people in the colony, though less than twenty were mainly featured. Even though the scenes were reportedly staged, I still believe that the main theme of balancing tradition and modernity plays a big role in the lives of many Hutterites.
That’s what drew me into the show in the first place. How do you protect a way of life that has been practiced for centuries as things like technology and modern thinking come up and threaten those traditions. One of the main storylines was that of a Hutterite teen named Claudia who had to make the decision between pursuing a college education and staying within the colony. She was also always challenging Hutterite views on how women should wear their hair and dress. It’s just hard for me to fathom that she would act like this character in the series, if she didn’t actually believe in making those changes. Still, there is no doubt that that experience doesn’t exist for a Hutterite somewhere. People have left Hutterite colonies forever for some of those same reasons.
There isn’t going to be a second season of the show, but I wonder how this conflict between the colony and producers will be resolved.