“Tank Fairy” Proves A Spunky Queer Take on a Fixture of Taiwanese Life

by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Tank Fairy 桶妝仙女/Facebook

TANK FAIRY (桶妝仙女) is a spunky queer take on a traditional fixture of Taiwanese urban life–the deliveryperson, invariably middle-aged and male, that brings canisters of gas that apartments use to boil hot water for cooking and showering. 

In the short film, this would be the eponymous Tank Fairy, who serves as a fairy godmother figure to Jojo. Jojo is a young queer student, who is teased by their classmates, and whose mother disapproves of their dressing in women’s clothes. 

Photo credit: Tank Fairy 桶妝仙女/Facebook

The Tank Fairy happens across Jojo while delivering gas one day and, noticing that something is amiss, leaves her business card for them. Subsequently, the Tank Fairy comes to Jojo’s aid on several episodes through the brief, nine-minute film. 

Tank Fairy stands out more for its creative concept  than its execution. As the protagonist, Jojo is a likable enough character, and Ryan Lin does a good job embodying them. On the other hand, Marian’s performance as the Tank Fairy looms over the film; it is no mistake to say that the short would simply not work without her. 

Photo credit: Tank Fairy 桶妝仙女/Facebook

However, Danielle Yen’s performance as Jojo’s mother is a bit lacking, less due to Yen’s performance, but because the character is not given very much to do. As with other recent Taiwanese LGBTQ family dramas as 2018’s Dear Ex, the mother enforces the heterosexual social order that the protagonist’s queer foster parent reacts against–theTank Fairy in this short, and Roy Chiu’s character Jay in Dear Ex. Nevertheless, Jojo’s mother ultimately lacks an emotional arc in the Tank Fairy. Though she comes to accept her son’s queerness by the end of the short, it is not clear why she has any motivation to change. 

The dance routines between Jojo and the Tank Fairy are probably the short’s best-executed scenes. The film’s color palette is also unique and distinctive. While Sonia Calico, one of Taiwan’s best-known contemporary underground electronic music producers, provides the soundtrack, Tank Fairy would’ve been even stronger if it leaned harder into Calico’s experimentalism. 

Photo credit: Tank Fairy 桶妝仙女/Facebook

Interestingly, as a brief film less than ten minutes long, Tank Fairy suffers some pacing issues. The various “episodes” that comprise the short generally proceed at the same static pace, with no real sense of rising action or climax. As such, it may not be surprising that the film’s conclusion is somewhat anticlimactic.

Though imperfect, Tank Fairy still serves to demonstrate the technical skills of those involved. The film has its merits and it has its heart in the right place. But if the concept had been fleshed out more with a solid plot, this short would have stood out further.