‘Holes’ is a Metaphor for Queerness and Homophobia

The 2003 cinematic tour de force Holes has long been a nostalgic favorite of ‘90s and 2000s kids. Starring a youthful and less problematic Shia LaBeouf, the movie follows Stanley Yelnats IV (LaBeouf) through a tale of folklore, unlucky toils, and fated friendships. When I was young, I loved the movie for its story, its characters, and Patricia Arquette. But as a gay adult, I realized Holes has a significant amount of themes and characters that are actually relevant to my lesbian interests: fortune tellers, cursed families, the desert, Patricia Arquette.

I had a sneaking suspicion that this 2003 classic was actually a lot gayer than I remembered it to be, so I rewatched it, just to be sure. Through my research, I’ve proven my hypothesis to be true: Holes is a big metaphor for queerness and homophobia. Hear me out.

First of all, the Yelnats family subscribes to the idea that they’re eternally cursed, destined for misfortune time and time again, because their ancestor Elya broke a promise with a fortune teller years ago. This is gay. Most lesbians believe themselves to be cursed by an evil force, an eldritch spirit with roots in dark magic too sinister to topple. But all lesbians believe themselves to be perpetually unlucky. We’re a very “why me?” kind of people. So, this Yelnats mythology alone is canonically lesbian.

Stanley Yelnats IV gets arrested for stealing a famous baseball player’s sneakers, even though he didn’t actually steal them — they fell from the sky, having been tossed over an overpass, and hit Stanley in the head. Even though he’s a straight white male, this is surely an allegory for the unjust incarceration of the “cursed,” AKA the oppressed, who’ve been actually cursed by the depravity of systemic racism. Stanley is then shipped off to a juvenile detention camp in the desert to serve his time. Here, he meets his new best friend Zero (Khleo Thomas).

Camp Green Lake is a dried-up lake run by the wicked warden Louise Walker (Sigourney Weaver). To me, the Warden represents a bitter old lesbian who’s going through a “drought.” Actually, the Warden is extremely gay. She’s a stern, sexless woman with a vendetta — which is like, every queer woman ever — who uses nail polish that contains rattlesnake venom. That’s not only psychotic and super extra, but totally symbolic of how desperately queer women feel the need to protect themselves (from exes, homophobes, loud men in the library, etc). But stepping away from the definitely repressed lesbian Warden — it hasn’t rained over Camp Green Lake for over 100 years. Here’s where the real metaphor for queerness trickles in — there hasn’t been a drop of rain since before Kissin’ Kate Barlow buried her treasure. I’ll come back to that.

Per the Warden’s orders, the campers are forced to spend all day every day laboriously digging holes in the dried-up lake, searching for something they’re not yet aware of — buried treasure, an escape, a truth about themselves, the G-spot. After Stanley uncovers a fossil and a lipstick tube with the initials K.B. on it, the other campers nickname him Caveman.

Caveman discovers that K.B. stands for “Kissin’ Kate” Barlow (Arquette), a long-feared, storied outlaw who, in addition to the Warden, seems super queer, and not just because she’s a badass, revenge-fueled anti-hero, which is par for course for the evil bisexual trope, or even the dead lesbian trope. Via a series of flashbacks, we find out that Kissin’ Kate was involved in a love triangle with a wealthy man named Charles “Trout” Walker — yes, like of the Warden Walker tribe — and an oppressed African American onion seller named Sam. Kate loved Sam and rejected Walker, which lead to Walker murdering Sam, because men. Forbidden love is and always has been queer, and persecuting a person because of who they love? Come on, this is textbook gay shit. I think Sam — a unisex name — was actually a woman.

To retaliate, Kate kills the town sheriff, breaking free of the chains of homophobia that bogged her down, and thus begins her bender as a bisexual outlaw. She subsequently steals a treasure chest from Elya’s son Stanley, of the Yelnats clan. When the Walkers become bankrupt, they demand Kate turn in her treasure, and here’s where Kate’s big lesbian metaphor plays a part: the treasure is actually a symbol for the rapturous joys of lesbianism. But after being punished for loving Sam, Kate was forced to bury her treasure, because homophobia. Soon after, a venomous lizard bites and kills Kate, leaving the Walkers to spend an eternity digging through insurmountable layers of homophobia, hoping to poke “holes” in the allegorical discrimination, looking for the lights of lesbianism to shine through and bring queerness back to Green Lake.

A bunch of other shit happens — we find out Zero is Hector Zeroni, a descendant of Sam the onion farmer, and he’s also the one who threw the shoes over the overpass which led to Caveman’s arrest. When Caveman helps Zero survive in the desert (by eating onions), he unknowingly fulfills his ancestor’s promise, breaking the curse, and blah blah blah. Finally, Caveman finds the buried treasure, which is rightfully his, as it belonged to his ancestor Stanley, before bisexual queen Kate swiped it.

When the Warden is arrested and Caveman and Zero are released from Camp Green Lake, it rains over the lake for the first time in a century. Do you see it now?! Once the symbolic lesbianism was uncovered and freed from the heavy, burdensome weight of sand (homophobia), wetness was returned to the desert. The Warden’s, and Green Lake’s drought ends because gayness has soaked the desert for the first time since Kate was persecuted for loving freely.

You heard it here first, ‘90s and 2000s kids: Holes is gay now.


Jill Gutowitz

Jill Gutowitz is a writer and humorist currently living in LA, originally from The Void.

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