The True Evil in League of Legend's ARCANE Series
It’s not mystery than I’m not the biggest fan of League of Legends and given articles like this - I’m not alone in that sentiment. But the virality of Riot Games first serialized television series Arcane does ask some important questions - why are we so drawn to this show? Probably the thing that draws most people to League in the first place - the characters. And the characters in this show pretty much unilaterally have the exact same issue in common. Why do we do evil things for the people that we love? And does Jesus have a better way? Let’s talk about it.
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1 John 4:17-21 NRSV
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
So what exactly is this whole Arcane series that the League of Legends community is so in love with?
Arcane is a animated television series set in the League of Legends Universe set in the past relative to said universe, allowing it to serve as a prequel to the game and retell the origin stories of several characters from Piltover and Zaun.
In particular, the characters the show focuses on are two Undercity sister Vi and Powder, who LoL fans know as Jinx.
The show itself gives the audience a deeper look at these two characters than the game is able to properly do - although League fans will swear by the world-building present in the game for many of its vibrant cast of characters.
The show is receiving the high marks of praise rightfully on it’s animation, which is plain and simply gorgeous. Especially the Ekko fight which I’ve had on repeat since I first saw it.
The voice acting is great and the world building is good enough, but is definitely improved with some understanding of the universe from its source material.
But for the purposes of this video we really care about the story being told in this series. So spoilers ahead - be wary!
This story serves as the origin of mainly Jinx and Vi, but certainly not ONLY them. One of my complaints about the show is that it maybe got TOO fanservice heavy - we learn the origin of Jayce, Caitlyn, Ekko, Singed, Heimerdinger, Viktor, and maybe Orianna, Ryze, Kindred, Braum, and Warwick? That’s too many people in too many places.
And then we also have a totally original character Silco who serves as the main antagonist.
But complaints aside, the main overarching story has to do with the divide that takes place between Vi and Powder who go from being sisters in the first arc to tumultuous antagonists by the end of the story.
In the background we have the story of two systems of power that each sister allies with - Piltover, the city of progress for Vi and Silco’s revolutionary zealots of Zaun.
Pretty much every single character in the show goes through the exact same crisis of character.
You have the Character. They have a goal. They are motivated. They fall in love, literally or metaphorically or familially. That love gets in the way in some way, shape, or form. That love ends up ruining their perceived goal and causing a consequence.
Like, literally every character.
Vander - motivated leader- adopts Vi and Powder - softens - protects them when they do wrong - it kills him
Silco - revolutionary antagonist - adopts Jinx - softens - protects her when she does wrong - it kills him
Vi - pretty dope jailbird - falls in love with Caitlyn - softens - protects her by leaving - it cements the divide between her and Powder
Jayce - tech head inventor revolutionizing power - falls in love with Mel - softens - gets cloudy vision trying to do the right thing for her - causes a new war
Jinx does it, Viktor does it, Caitlyn does it, Ekko does it, Heimerdinger does it, I’m not exaggerating - this is just the show.
And that might have a thing or two to do with my review of it being a 7/10, but I won’t linger on that.
So what’s the deal? Why on earth is this show so obsessed with this theme of blinding love leading to a consequence?
Well, it’s likely following the trope of the Domino Effect from the first episode - Jinx gets her name from being someone who jinxes things every time that she comes along. So the argument could be - Everyone is Jinx, Jinx is everyone.
So love causes consequences - but is that really true? What’s the nuance that we can learn from and grow from? If one of our values is to ‘strive to grow’ by the media that we consume… what does Arcane have for us?
That brings us to our scripture. Today we heard from one of the epistles of John the apostle and revelator. We’re not totally sure to whom this letter was written - but it seems pretty likely that it was letter to the early church believers -- it’s more about instruction than introduction of the faith.
1 John is fairly notorious for introducing folks to some pretty gnostic thoughts, but this passage in particular is a pretty clear allusion to many of the ideas of Paul in Corinthians and some other epistles.
What John is presenting here is an impossibility and some nuance regarding the love presented in the form of Jesus Christ.
Again - he’s not teaching about Christ, but about how to live more like Christ in word and deed. If we are to love as Christ loved, how should we love?
John draws these two terms of love and fear together as opposites and wholly incompatible. To love as God loves must be absolutely devoid of fear. If we have any fear at all, then the God-love offered in Jesus is not and cannot be present.
The trouble with this passage is that it is practically made up of exclusively nuance - every word can mean something else.
To ground us - what kind of love and what kind of fear are we working with here?
The love that John is referring to is exclusively the love presented in Jesus Christ. The love that is laid down for friends. The love that eats with the prostitutes and the tax collectors. The love that dies on the cross. That kind of love. That’s the love that John believes we should be reaching for. Reaching for implies that we aren’t there yet. It’s a perfected form that we are striving for - kind of like the Wesleyan idea of Perfecting Grace.
So what kind of fear then?
Well, it’s not the fear of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament fear was used to refer to a sense of reverence - like a King and the people kind of fear. That’s not the kind of fear incompatible with love. What is the fear? Fear of the dark?
Not really - it’s fear of judgment at the end of time. The kind of fear that results in punishment. It’s the fear of abuse and the fear of a hateful and wrathful God. If that’s the kind of fear we possess, then how could we possibly have the love of God? If we can’t have the love of God for others until we experience it for ourselves, then having the fear of a wrathful God is thus wholly impossible to possess alongside the love of a grace-filled God. That’s why the whole Old Testament versus New Testament God theory doesn’t hold up - God is one and the same and is the grace-filled God that came down in the form of Jesus Christ with love for the least, the last, and the lost.
So what is the fear then? Just the fear of hell? Of punishment? Of God?
No not really… The fear that is referred to is the fear that spawns from the love of something other than God. Even if it’s out of love for something, if we react in fear then we aren’t reacting from the love of God, but from the love of ourselves.
What’s the difference? One little word.
Love with fear exists in the space where we live by love.
Love without fear exists in the space where we live to love.
To better illustrate this, let’s look at our characters in Arcane and where they went wrong.
Vi and Jinx’s confusion that leads to their division is one gradual step at a time - but it was first really kicked off by Vi reacting out of anger when Vander dies and it’s somewhat at the fault of Powder. Vi lashes out of anger and calls Powder Jinx for the first time - this is just the first crack, but it continues throughout.
Vi then leaves Powder behind - even if she did intend to go back for her. Her passionate anger leads to the division. In the second arc, Jinx’s love for her evil mentor Silco confuses her returning to Vi. And then by Arc 3, Vi and Caitlyn’s relationship plays to both Vi and Powder’s love in a way that ends up making Vi hate Jinx and Jinx hate Vi enough to lead to the final fatal frame of the show.
Now, sure - a lot of this is just convenient writing and foreboding tropism, but what’s at the root of these moments? A character makes a choice out of love for another character. That choice then impacts in a negative way.
Is it wrong to make a choice out of love? Well, on one hand it certainly goes wrong for literally everyone in this show. But on the other hand, IRL we do things out of love and fear for the ones that are closest to us all the time, right?
But to John - this is a human problem. A vice. The choice itself can be bad or good, but the method behind our decision-making is the crux of the issue.
When we live by love, we react to things as they happen. We can change to a state of rage out of nowhere. We’re passionate. Active. Dynamic.
But John says that this isn’t the perfect love we should be striving for. The love we should want is not reactionary, but embodied - lived out every day in the choices that we make. And sometimes the way that we love the people that we love can hold us back from that.
Jesus goes over this again and again - abandon your father and mother, leave your family behind, cut off your hand, gouge out your eye… if we live by the love that we have, we’re falling prey to you humanity. We have to be intentional in how we love and that we learn to love others, not by the love that they give us.
After all, as Jesus said - how easy is it to love someone who loves you? Living to love means to love without anything in return or initially provided. It’s a lifestyle, not a reaction.
So what does this actually mean for us today? Are we supposed to run away from home? Leave our mom and dad? Should we love our family less?
No - obviously not. John doesn’t want less love - he wants more true perfecting love of Jesus. That’s what we mean when we call ourselves Christians - we want to be ‘like Christ.’
And to John that means we need to embrace the way that Christ loved - not by reacting and being dynamic, but by seeking out those in need of love and living our every moment as an act of love. When we dwell in love as a lifestyle, we lose the irrational passionate reactions, but actually keep the embodied love of Christ. Think of Jesus on the night he was betrayed - Peter cuts a guy’s ear off. Reactionary. Jesus took the night to share a meal with the people who were about to have their leader taken away from them and crucified - that’s intentional.
You’re not a Jinx - and neither is Jinx. But when we react rather than prepare with loving intention, we set ourselves up for possible consequences. Living a constant life of love for everyone is the only way to ensure a life without fear and take one step closer to that perfection that we’re striving for.
So whether you’re a Piltovian, Firelight, or yordle, know that you’re always welcome here at Checkpoint Church, where we’re figuring out how to live to love, not live by love, every day.
And hey - if you’re a League player who has been behind the reviews for this show being resoundingly positive - how about you bring some of that positivity to the community of the game itself? Y’know? Like being kind to real human beings? No? Figures.
Question: Do you suffer through the toxic community of League and enjoy playing the game? Did you leave the game? Or have you just never played it?