In referring to Nightcrawler’s Sabrina Brooks as an anti-hero in literature, we consider the definition of the tragic hero according to Aristotle. It is one of noble birth, affected by the hamartia (tragic flaw) that leads to his downfall, as well as the perepeteia (reversal of fortune) that precipitates his fall. His actions result in an epiphany of self-awareness and self-knowledge, and it leads to the audience’s feelings of pity and fear for the sympathetic character. Aristotle noted that “A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.”
The modern-day anti-hero can be seen as a flawed character, disillusioned by society, seeking redemption for the greater good of society. They are misunderstood by society, and their more distasteful characteristics are tempered by their nobler traits. They are often conflicted by their own moral complexities and rejection of contemporary values. Some literary critics point to Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) and Willy Loman (Death Of A Salesman) as examples of anti-heroes in literary fiction.
Sabrina’s birth is not quite noble though she is the heiress of the Brooks Chemical Company, keeping his legacy alive in assuming his place as CEO upon his death. She is depicted as a party girl before taking on her new responsibilities, reminiscent of the rogue Prince Hal transforming into King Henry IV in Shakespeare’s play. We may consider her hamartia as being her Christian character, which compels her to ‘do the right thing’ regardless of consequence. The perepeteia can be seen as the effect of her actions as the Nightcrawler. Most of her forays result in an unfavorable long-range outcome though her alter ego does resolve the immediate problem at hand. Sabrina’s vulnerability as a young woman with a Christian nature inspires empathy, and she continues her actions as a vigilante though clearly seeing the negative impact it has on her personal life.
Her flaws as a party girl are continually alluded to by her mentor, Jon Aeppli, who reminds her what might have been if she had pursued her degree in chemistry rather than a career in law enforcement. There is also the guilt of knowing her father died of a broken heart. She is disillusioned by the inefficiency of the legal system and the inability of the government to apprehend the terrorists and criminals threatening society. She seeks to redeem herself as a wasted talent through the Nightcrawler, giving back whatever she may have squandered in her partying days. Both Jon and boyfriend Hoyt Wexford see it as a suicidal death wish, and her successes serve to reinforce their fears though she desperately seeks their approval. Pastor Matt Mitchell is her spiritual advisor, emphasizing her value as a Christian activist as opposed to a vigilante. He also seeks to dissuade her but cannot betray her trust according to pastor-penitent privilege.
Her title as the ‘World Most Unlikeliest Superhero’, though grammatically questionable, may hold true for certain reasons. She may well be the only female superhero to be mistakenly identified as a male, as no one is able to discern otherwise due to her face and figure-concealing apparel. She is often swayed by her female emotions in acting on instinct when faced with a problem. She also convinces Jon, Hoyt and Matt that she will never go Nightcrawling again, though Nightcrawler II is already in the works.