Eight episodes into the first season of Netflix’s American reboot of House of Cards, the power-hungry congressman Frank Underwood returns to the Southern Carolina military academy he attended decades earlier. Hanging out with his college bros, it becomes clear to viewers that Frank, now married to a woman and carrying on a lusty affair with a young female reporter, once had an indeterminate relationship with one of those bros.
This revelation, so far, has had little impact on the rest of the show. At one point, Frank has a threesome that involves his wife and a man; at another, he seems to hit on his biographer, who is male. In season three, he has a phone conversation with his college lover, and they vaguely allude to their past.
Maybe this will all add up to blackmail material later. But perhaps it’s just a detail meant to flesh out the inner life of a man who murders, betrays, and bribes to get what he wants. The showrunner Beau Willimon has rejected the use of labels to describe Frank’s sexuality, saying, “He’s a man with a large appetite,” a statement that suggests physical attractions are subsets of other personality traits.
The 2015 edition of GLAAD’s annual report on the state of minorities on TV mostly looks like progress to anyone who favors casting that reflects humanity’s diversity. About four percent of characters on broadcast primetime programming are identified as LGBT—a percentage that’s in line with what some studies show about the percentage of U.S. population identified as LGBT—and there are more women and more ethnic minorities on TV than ever before.