North Korean cinema is distinctive in its use of female protagonists to advance the propaganda objectives of the state. While men often play “failing” characters in need of conversion to the socialist ideology which every film promotes, women frequently embody the idealized hero: exhibiting the nationalistic self-reliance to which all citizens are encouraged to aspire. The function of “Mothers” and “Maidens” as revolutionary agents of change in key historical North Korean film texts is well documented; however, the subsequent evolution of North Korean heroines, and their ideologically problematic male counterparts, requires further examination. This article underpins an analysis of the disruptive femininities in play in three contemporary North Korean films with field research conducted in Pyongyang in 2012 to expand the Mother/Maiden binary: investigating how the power dynamics between the female “leader” and “unawakened” male are used to both promote the state’s sociopolitical aims and reinforce the supremacy of the Kim regime.

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