Thursday, January 18, 2007

You Said a Mouthful

James Michener, when writers would ask him the secret of success as a novelist, often advised "[b]e sure your first novel is read by Rodgers and Hammerstein.''

Migdalor Guy's recent post on the roots of prejudice reminded me of that quote today.

Speaking of the lullabies his own mother's sang him as a child, MG says:

But there's one song whose message she always stressed. It's from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific."

Lieutenant Cable has fallen in love with Liat, a half-breed Tonkinese beauty. His response to the concern of others about "what will the neighbors think" is this song, with some of Oscar Hammerstein's best lyrics:

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught!
You've got to be carefully taught!

Check it out.

4 comments:

Rachel said...

this song was seriously in South Pacific? Why don't I remember this.
How offensive!

David in DC said...

Rachel, I think you're misreading this.

Cable is condemning this kind of teaching. He's saying he loves Liat and he's not going to stop because of what others might think.

The others have been carefully taught to hate, because it's not natural. It has to be "carefully taught".

playtah said...

Great song, and very progressive for its time!!!!

Migdalor Guy said...

The works of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein III are replete with, dare I say, Jewishly-based utzs on a variety of societal and social issues. Think about Carousel. Think Oklahoma (you think "The Farmer and the Cowman" is just a fun dance number? Is the "Sound of Music" really just a nice little story about nuns and pretty scenery?

The same is true for many Broadway musicals.

And David is correct. "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" is an biting and inspired condemnation of bigotry. Actually, the whole of "South Pacific" is just that. True to some of the source material for James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific."