This essay links the historical figure of Phoolan Devi, infamously known as the “Bandit Queen,” a vigilante and the subject of several articles, news stories, books, and a biopic, with the more recent figure of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the victim of a brutal gang rape in 2012, who similarly became the subject of news stories, films, performances, and a TV series. It examines the BBC's commissioned documentary film India's Daughter (dir. Leslee Udwin, 2015) as an example of how the aesthetics of realism can sensationalize sexual assault, engender a spectatorial complicity, and, in this case, scaffold damaging cultural narratives.

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