South Pacific (1949) has often been lauded as one of the most progressive musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, particularly for its frank treatment of ethnic prejudice in a genre that typically eschewed such sensitive social topics. But a close analysis of some musical scenes in the score (particularly in the 1958 film version) reveals a strong undertow to this received picture. This talk will suggest that the mixed messages of the musical are a reflection of competing social currents of American society in the wake of the Pacific War, a growing red scare, and the first stirrings of the civil rights movement.