One of the best features of Avatar: The Last Airbender is a wide range of its source of inspiration. Reaching out to many cultures, religions, myths, and tropics, there seems to be no limit to where the creators of nations are free to draw their own conclusions. Perhaps one of the most intriguing sources of inspiration for a show that once thrived was Apocalypse Now. Remember Jeong Jeong?
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Inspiration
Introduced to “The Deserter,” Jeong Jeong is apparently a man inspired by Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz. With so little information about Jeong Jeong, it is easy to take his heroism for granted; However, his source of inspiration may point to a darker and worse side to the old king Avatar fans will still see.
Jeong Jeong is indeed a terrifying person when Gaang meets him for the first time. Hidden in the depths of the jungle, Jeong Jeong became a legend when he relinquished his top military position after realizing he did not support the war. Surrounded by loyal tribal followers, one of whom is a rival priest who treats him with almost religious reverence, Jeong Jeong rises to the occasion as the military tries to hunt him down. If that explanation sounds familiar, it probably is because it applies in full to Colonel Kurtz of the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now.
The story of his movie is based on the heart of Joseph Conrad Darkness, in which actor Kurtz plays a similar role. The Apocalypse Now tells us about military service during the Vietnam War to hunt down a former military leader who left his position. Like Jeong Jeong, Kurtz surrounded the nation of people who treated him with respect. While Kurtz is visited by a photojournalist, Jeong Jeong has Chey, who created the mythical scene of Jeong Jeong in Gaang’s eyes before they meet him.
Comparisons should be disturbing, as Colonel Kurtz is far from the old wise king who is ready to help the heroes get out where it is most important. Kurtz was a war criminal who killed countless people, took brutal photographs to break the support of the United States worldwide, cut off a man’s head in the film, and finally took a break from suicide. Jeong Jeong is portrayed as an extremely strong pacifist, but what can be very disturbing is how young viewers learn about Jeong Jeong throughout the series.
The similarities seem to imply the violence of Jeong Jeong who worked for the Fire Nation before his rebellion, and perhaps even his mental instability. This will bring back his Roku vision that motivates him to help Aang, not a supernatural event, but rather the deception of Jeong Jeong’s suffering that works for the convenience of the protagonist. Earlier in the same era, the arc of the whole story revolved around the need for a solstice for Roku to have Aang’s body, while Jeong Jeong was at least not stable enough to take the place of what is now a sect leader among his followers.
Little is known about the fate of Jeong Jeong’s camp after they fled the Fire Nation and at the end of “The Deserter,” although Jeong Jeong apparently brought back very little of Chey’s love until he left a loyal follower behind. At the end of the episode, the help of Jeong Jeong and his destructive power proved to be a great help in the release of Ba Sing Se, but the heroes never stop asking who they got help from.
The resemblance of Jeong Jeong and Kurtz could point to a very dark side to the firefighter we always get advice about. With that kind of firepower, it can’t mean the destruction he can bring if he ever gives in to his fears and loses control in the end. Avatar: The Last Airbender.