The Shape-Shifting Diva: Yamaguchi Yoshiko and the National Body

Jennifer Coates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article addresses the postwar film career (1948–1958) of Japanese actress Yamaguchi Yoshiko to suggest that understanding the star persona as ‘diva’ can uncover the affective value of star images for contemporary audiences. The diva persona is often typified by symbols and iconography that transform the actress into something non-human or transcendental. Many scholars and critics of Japanese film have struggled to put this transformative aspect of the female star persona into words, presenting the affective impact of the diva as inexplicable. Attempting to shed light on the affect of the diva persona in Japanese cinema, this article suggests that diva images are invested with particular affects that reflect and mediate national issues. Reading Yamaguchi's star persona in the context of the drastic socio-political change of the early postwar era reveals the expressive and mediative qualities of the diva image at work in the aftermath of Japanese defeat and occupation (1945–1952), and suggests that Yamaguchi's enduring popularity and political influence are based in the national implications of her diva performances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-38
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Japanese and Korean Cinema
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2014


  • postwar
  • occupation
  • Ri Kōran
  • Yamaguchi Yoshiko
  • affect

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