What is the truth of the National Geographic Channel’s production of Meet the Hutterites?
Since Meet the Hutterites began airing on the National Geographic Channel, fans of the show have offered their support, but many Hutterites, including the bishops of the three sects and the elders of the Hutterite communities, have been vocal in their opposition to the show and to the portrayal of the way Hutterites live their lives in their colonies. At this point, the Associated Press has reported that the Hutterite leaders are demanding an apology from the National Geographic Channel, as well as a promise that the 10 shows produced in the first season—and one may well assume the last—of the series will never air again.
Good luck with that one.
But, David Lyle, the CEO of the National Geographic Channel, says that an apology is unwarranted, because what is seen in the series is a fair and accurate depiction of colony life.
Very few people would argue that a reality show is 100% realistic—viewers know and expect that some of the scenes are staged. This, in fact, would be why shows such as Meet the Hutterites are “reality shows” and not “documentaries.” But, in the case of Meet the Hutterites, it is becoming harder and harder to decide if there was truly some scandalous misrepresentation of the society by National Geographic Channel, or simply “buyer’s remorse” on the part of King Ranch Colony and the Hutterite community.
The Hutterite bishops made it clear in a statement early in the season that they were not happy with the series, and that they had not been consulted before the series was put into production. But, following the airing of the series, residents of King Ranch Colony have came out to the press with their own statements, claiming that, although the colony was paid a reported $100,000 for the filming of the show, that they were somehow taken advantage of by the producers.
Sounds a lot like buyer’s remorse.
Wesley Hofer, who was featured prominently in the show, has given conflicting statements on his view of the show’s validity and on the participants’ responsibility in making the series. First, he stated, The Washington Post reported, that those colony members taking part in the show were “adults who are capable of making rational decisions regarding Hutterite life on King (Ranch) Colony. The notion that we were taken advantage of, as if we were innocent children, is nonsense.”
Now, however, he has had a change of heart—either his own or under pressure from others, who really knows—and says he regrets those statements:
"I deeply regret the confusion my earlier statement to the press regarding the show, Meet the Hutterites, has caused. I apologize for my lack of judgment. I want to learn from this experience and become better for it. I know the only way to do this is to be honest.”
Honest? Who knows what about this show or any of its participants, from production to cast, is honest at this point? With all of the conflicting opinions and statements going back and forth, who is to be believed? Wesley Hofer even states in this new “testimony” that the scene in which he was having a heart attack was faked, and alleges that, “[Producer] Jeff Collins offered the hospital a donation if they went along with it.”
Alan Mairson, whose Twitter account describes him as, “a freelance journalist; former staff writer and editor @ National Geographic magazine,” has loaded a file entitled, “Personal Testimonies” at Scribd.com. The file contains what are allegedly personal testimonies from numerous members of King Ranch Colony, including Wesley Hofer, Claudia Hofer, Bertha Hofer, Marvin Hofer, and Toby Hofer. Are they genuine, and written without pressure from others in the Hutterite community? Are they staged and contrived? Or, perhaps, this whole situation is this simply a strong case of buyer’s remorse: The Hutterites at King Ranch Colony did what they did for the money, thought they could get away with it, and are now sorry, because it didn’t work out as they had hoped. These are questions for readers and fans of Meet the Hutterites to answer for themselves.
Stay tuned—the season may be over, but it is unlikely that the saga of Meet the Hutterites is at its end.
Image: Wikimedia Commons