(Salon) -- The hit A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty” feels like a throwback — not necessarily as far back as “The Waltons,” but to the retrograde conservatism of the mid-2000s. Back then, “The Simple Life” advanced a binary notion of American culture — one could either be a decadent, stupid coastal denizen or someone with the deep wisdom that comes from living in the heartland — and “American Idol” sold a deeply conservative notion that stardom was deserved by those with the broadest possible appeal and a hard-luck story.
Culture has actually improved in the intervening years, but “Duck Dynasty’s” recent success proves there’ll always be an audience for shows that sell a counterfactual conservative fantasy of the God-fearing nuclear American family as exemplary at a time when the American family has never been more fractured. The duck-call millionaires of “Duck Dynasty” are open about their faith to the point of proselytizing, wear beards to signal their conservatism, and live lives as captured on-air that resemble “Leave It to Beaver,” all cute wisecracks with no real tension. “Duck Dynasty” exists to reassure, to comfort people that not everyone is a crazy coastal creature who voted for Nobama.