One of my favorite musicals is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”. One of its main central themes is Racism- I actually think that theme might be the antagonist of the musical. There is an incredible song in there called “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”.
Do you know what makes that particular song incredible. Well, it does show that no one was born racist, but was taught it.
You’ve got to be Taught
Before its too late
Before You are Six
To hate all the People your Relatives hate
You’ve got to be Carefully TaughtYou’ve got to be Carefully Taught- South Pacific
This is a great example of where racism comes from. No one was born that way. You are taught about it. South Pacific is a love story between Emelie and Nellie. There is another romance, which is a subplot, that is between Joe Cable and Liat. After finding out about Emelie’s biracial children, Nellie wants to break up with them- due to the race of his children. That does lead to Emelie’s heartbreaking, “This Nearly was Mine”. Quickly, Nellie realizes her mistake- but doesn’t know if Emelie will survive after he agrees with Joe Cable to go on a risky mission. That mission gets Joe Cable killed, but Emelie actually lives.
Joe Cable is kinda of like Nellie in a way. He did not want to have biracial children with Liat. It is not like Nellie’s case where she realizes the mistake she made. That all came as a result of her not wanting Emelie’s children to end up being parentless, and discovering that she still wants to be with him.
It is crazy in a way to think about South Pacific could easily have been a tragic love story. That would have been the case if the two romances were switched- as in Joe and Liat being the main couple with Emelie and Nellie being only a subplot. But due to South Pacific being about Emelie and Nellie, South Pacific remains a happy love story.
It actually is Joe Cable that teaches Emelie about this message. Emelie obviously wasn’t taught racism. Joe Cable and Nellie were, which leads to tragic consequences for almost both of them. Emelie almost didn’t survive, but good thing he did. I actually think “Some Enchanted Evening” is one of the most romantic love stories in musical theatre.