What a drag! Filipina/white Australian relations in 'The adventures of Priscilla queen of the desert'

Elaine Laforteza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper tracks the ways in which the deployment of Orientalist logic (in)forms the Australian film 'The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert' (1994) and responses to the film. I argue that Orientalism within Priscilla privileges a white hegemony that denies the potentialities of queer as destabilising normative coherence. I focus on the white protagonists’ relationship with Cynthia, the Filipina character, in order to interrogate how whiteness and Orientalism (in)forms their contact with one another, and I process queer (to a heterosexist social order) characters as normative protagonists because of their whiteness. Here, I insinuate my own readings of the film to show that while Orientalist whiteness shapes the film, it also produces and is produced by perceptual practices that deploy investments in and/or resignify the scope of white Orientalism. I track this simultaneous affirmation and reconceptualisation of normative structures through the characters’ use of drag. Such impermanence maintains whiteness as the speaking/subject position. Consequently, queer potentialities for extending the scope of white Orientalism cannot eventuate. This paper pushes towards recognising whiteness and Orientalism as integral facets of queerness within Priscilla and through responses to the film. With this, the multiple ways in which queer identities are experienced can be addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalACRAWSA E-journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • whiteness
  • orientalism
  • drag(ging)
  • Philippines - Australia relations
  • mail-order bride
  • queer(ing)
  • racial performativity


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