The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert turns 21 this year. The Australia of 1994 was no beacon of progressiveness. Difference was at best frowned upon and at worst scared into hiding. A vegan would be looked upon with suspicion. A girl surfer would get flack. As for being openly gay or on the rainbow spectrum in the outback... Well that wasn’t going to lie.
The blatancy of the intolerance is satirised in Monty Python’s ‘Bruce’ sketch. A professor called Michael (the Bruces call him Bruce to avoid confusion) is visiting a Queensland uni from the UK. He is introduced to the philosophy professors. “Hey, Bruce, are you a poofter?!” It turns out Rules 1, 3, 5 and 7 are all ‘No poofters’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_p0CgPeyA
All the Bruces are clearly mates, all drink beer and all think alike. They seek a simple harmony – albeit an illusion. This blow-in, while breaking the monotony, threatens, in their minds, to upset the apple cart. So it is with the three travelling performers of Priscilla – two transvestites and a transsexual, played gloriously by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp. And the struggle to make the film a reality was a case of life imitating art imitating life. That struggle is explored in the new doco Between a Frock and a Hard Place. (Click the post title for details.)
Priscilla’s legacy is far more wide-ranging than a new acceptance of differing sexualities, important though that is. It’s about individuality in all its forms. Freedom of expression. An appetite for the many diverse stories now on offer – from this land and the world. Priscilla is fabulous, and the next generation of Australians will be also.