1998, 28 Minutes
China Dolls is a stylish and moving portrayal of gay Asian-Australians and their often difficult journeys to self-acceptance. Filmmaker Tony Ayres explores the relationship between race and sexuality, taking us into the unfamiliar world of “rice queens”, “potato queens”, “bananas” and “sticky rice”.
In the gay scene, the young and beautiful possess the greatest social power. But what is considered desirable is also influenced by race. From Calvin Klein ads to gay erotica, the dominant image is Caucasian. In this equation Asian men are either invisible, or portrayed as soft and “feminine” - the opposite of the exaggerated masculinity celebrated in gay iconography.
China Dolls probes the uncomfortable reality of racial stereotyping and discrimination in the gay world through interviews with Asian men who talk frankly, and often humorously, of their experiences of living within a “double minority”. They include the acclaimed photographer and performance artist, William Yang, and actor Anthony Wong.
Linking their stories is the voice of filmmaker Tony Ayres, who tells a highly personal story of coming to terms with his race and sexuality. Born in Hong Kong, Ayres grew up in Australia denying his Chinese identity. Ironically, it was only when he realised he was gay that the full implications of his ethnicity became apparent. The filmmaker's journey from denial towards acceptance of his complex identity highlights the story of a whole generation of gay Asian men in Australia today who are overturning old stereotypes and forging new identities for themselves.
China Dolls is not from the mainstream, but its themes of diversity, acceptance, and the politics of desire make it a contemporary, universal story.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Director: Tony Ayers
Featured People: Andrew Kaw, Chi - Kan Woo, Anthony Wong, William Yang, Beng Eu, Michael Camit, Steven Chau
Running Time: 28 Minutes
Classification: PG. Consumer advice: Adult Themes.
Curriculum Links: Gender Studies; NSW English - Identity and Cultural Diversity: Year 8 - Global Voices Through Film, Year 10 - Voices From the Margins; Ethics; SOSE; HSIE; PDHPE Stage 5, Strand 1 'Self and Relationships'.