Created By: Xzenu on August 31, 2010 Last Edited By: Xzenu on August 31, 2010
Troped

Don't Look Back

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Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples * No Launching Please
To sometimes turn around and see what's behind us is one of the most natural instincts in the world. And it goes for what you literally have behind you as well as what you have behind you in a more metaphorical sense. But sometimes, you just mustn't.

For this trope to come into effect, turning back must be forbidden and/or have very bad consequences.

In drama, this is primarily a symbolic metaphor involving issues of trust and angst. However, it can also be a matter of You Do NOT Want To Know.

To avoid the whole What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? debate, purely practical examples (such as being chased my a Medusa) is not excluded from this trope. This extends to video games that use it as a particularly brutal way of enforcing Ratchet Scrolling: Turning back kills you instantly.

Can lead to Curiosity Killed the Cast. Has nothing to do with Don't Look Down: "Back" is where you are coming from, not merely a direction opposite to where your head is facing.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Bleach anime episode 168. While Division 3 is fleeing a Restrictive Current in the Precipice World, Lieutenant Izuru Kira tells his men "Don't look back". He doesn't want them to be distracted by the pursuing threat.
  • At the end of Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki, Chihiro is forbidden to look back as she is journeying out of the spirit world.

Comic Books
  • Invoked in Judge Dredd, during the "Apocalypse War" Story Arc, Mega-City One is ravaged by the Soviet city-state East-Meg One to the point where a massive throng of civilians (in the comic, said to be "an estimated 27 million people") are at one point seen making an exodus. One child being carried by his father looks back and says, "Bye-bye city," while his father responds, "Don't Look Back, boy! You might catch something!" Later, the freak weather conditions caused by the destruction of Weather Control creates hurricane conditions, which sweeps up the escaping refugees and "unceremoniously deposits them back in the city from which they fled."
  • In I Can't Believe it's not the Justice League, the Superbuddies are in Hell and meet their long-deceased friend and teammate Ice. Eventually it comes to pass that the group is simply allowed to leave, and they can even take Ice with them - as long as none of them look back to make sure she's still there. Ice was Fire's best friend and the only person Guy Gardner ever truly loved - it was torture to not look. Ice says something just as they reach the end of the tunnel, and the two instinctively look back, causing her to disappear.

Literature
  • In the ancient Greek tragedy Orpheus and Euredike, Orpheus gets to ressurect his wife from the dead. But only if he lead her all the way back from the underworld without even once turning around to verify that the undead thing walking behind him is really her. He fails, and lose her forever. Some modern versions squeezes in a happy ending afterwards, Completely Missing the Point.
  • In The Bible story of Sodom and Gommorrah, Lot and his family live in a city full of siner. God allows them to escape while He destroys the city. However, they are told not to turn back. Lot's wife, however, does it anyway, and she is then turned into salt.
Music
  • Boston also has a song called "Don't Look Back". It's decidedly far more upbeat than most of these examples, and uses the phrase to emphasize the message of optimism and living without regrets.
  • Don Henly, "Boys of Summer"
a voice inside my head said don't look back
you can never look back
I thought I knew what love was
what did I know
those days are gone for ever
I should just let them go and...

Mythology

Real Life

Tabletop Games
  • Invoked (as the main back-cover slogan) in White Wolf's Orpheus, a game published between the first and second World of Darkness. [Note: anyone know if the concept was also used in the actual game? I haven't played it, only read the cover and skimmed a bit in the books.]

Urban Legend
  • The Boyfriend's Death. When the girl is told to get out of the car by the police they tell her to not look back. She does, and sees either (a) the body of her boyfriend hanging down from a tree limb and scraping the roof with its fingers or (b) the madman who killed her boyfriend sitting on top of the roof and tapping it with her boyfriend's head.

Video Games
  • In Doodle Jump, the platforms stop existing as soon as they fall out of view. Thus, if you try to jump down to get a power-up you missed then there is nothing to land on - you will fall to your death.
  • The game Don't Look Back (Let's Played by Deceased Crab here) is a retelling of the Orpheus myth and, in the return trip, has that as a gameplay mechanic: facing the wrong way will cause Eurydice to dissolve and necessitate the player to replay that screen from the beginning.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: when Homer became head of Sanitation and ruined the environment, after the town packs up an moves away we see a Crying Indian. Another Native American then comes up to the one who cried at the single piece of litter and says "Do yourself a favor. Don't turn around." The camera pans out over the landfill where Springfield used to be, to the sound of screaming, followed by "I told you not to turn around."
Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • August 15, 2010
    ElementX
    There is a Bible story that features this. I don't know the exact details, but basically a woman is told not to look back and when she does she turns into a pillar of salt.
  • August 15, 2010
    helterskelter
    I'm confused...you're talking about when characters walk away without looking behind them?
  • August 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    @Element X: It was the story in the Old Testament (don't remember which book) that had Sodom and Gomorrah. A man named Lot was the only righteous man there, so when God destroyed both cities, He spared him and his family. However, they were told not to look back. His wife disobeyed and got turned into salt.
  • August 15, 2010
    SweetMadness
    @ helterskelter, I think it's just for examples for when you literally cannot look back without facing some sort of serious consequence.
  • August 16, 2010
    Xzenu
    @helterskelter: Not exactly. This is about when characters walk away and 'are required'' to abstain from looking behind them.

    @Sweet Madness: Yup!
  • August 16, 2010
    ChevalierMalfait
    The biblical example above could do with a little less Complaining About Religions You Don't Like. Just sayin'.
  • August 16, 2010
    Vree
    This is indeed a very old trope, a lot of myths and tales have used it. It's more of a Dead Horse trope today though. But among the other fairy tale "rules" like "always follow the road" etc. there was also one that if you turn back when leaving a supernatural place, you will be captured and taken back.

    I do not know any direct examples atm (some digging into Grimm's tales may help there), but I do know that it was referenced in Discworld's The Light Fantastic where the characters are warned about this when leaving Death's domain. Being a parody of course it is unclear if this is really true or not - after some argument the heroes just conclude that the reason is that it's probably not a very pretty sight.
  • August 16, 2010
    Vree
    ^I said "captured", but I think a lot of creatures were simply compelled to go back if them or another person with them did this.
  • August 16, 2010
    SeanMurrayI
    In Judge Dredd, during the "Apocalypse War" Story Arc, Mega-City One is ravaged by the Soviet city-state East-Meg One to the point where a massive throng of civilians (in the comic, said to be "an estimated 27 million people") are at one point seen making an exodus. One child being carried by his father looks back and says, "Bye-bye city," while his father responds, "Dont Look Back, boy! You might catch something!" Later, the freak weather conditions caused by the destruction of Weather Control creates hurricane conditions, which sweeps up the escaping refugees and "unceremoniously deposits them back in the city from which they fled."
  • August 16, 2010
    bluepenguin
    The "guy tries to bring someone back from the dead but is not allowed to look at her until he passes a certain point (and he always does)" thing is an oddly common myth plot. In addition to Orpheus and Eurydice, it shows up (more or less) in the Japanese myth concerning the death of Izanami; one Native American tribe (can't remember which tribe, or any specific details of the story, really -- it was a long time ago that I read it, I just remember going "huh, that sounds familiar") has a tale along similar lines as well.
  • August 17, 2010
    randomsurfer
    A comedic example:
    • The Simpsons: when Homer became head of Sanitation and ruined the environment, after the town packs up an moves away we see a Crying Indian. Another Native American then comes up to the one who cried at the single piece of litter and says "Do yourself a favor. Don't turn around." The camera pans out over the landfill where Springfield used to be, to the sound of screaming, followed by "I told you not to turn around."
  • August 17, 2010
    dotchan
    From the New Testament: "He who puts his hand on the yoke and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God".
  • August 17, 2010
    berr
    Related: "don't look at the fireball" especially if it is Deus Ex Nukina. That could be this too.
  • August 17, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    Is it really necessary to use the "Final Solution" and "Holocaust" phraseology about the Old Testament story? Don't be gratuitously offensive, Gideon Crawle.
  • August 18, 2010
    Arivne
    Real Life
  • August 18, 2010
    SeanMurrayI
    ^^ Technically, the word "holocaust" is a pre-existing term and is generally used to describe any event of great destruction and loss of life (i.e. "nuclear holocaust") and would be appropriate. Though I will say that the phrase "final solution" is not a good one to use.
  • August 18, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    Technically, the pre-existing meaning of "holocaust" was "a burnt offering," from which it was extended to include any great conflagration (which is why in The Philadelphia Story, Macauly Conners says to Tracy Lord: "You're lit from within, Tracy. You've got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts."). Unfortunately, since its maladroit appropriation as an equivalent for Shoah, the word has become too much associated with deliberate pogromy and becomes offensive in context. A man would hardly compliment a woman now by saying she had holocausts inside her.
  • August 18, 2010
    Grandy

    That was a copy-pasta, as I wasn't sure of the details.
  • August 18, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Don Henly, "Boys of Summer"
    a voice inside my head said don't look back
    you can never look back
    I thought I knew what love was
    what did I know
    those days are gone for ever
    I should just let them go and...

  • August 19, 2010
    Sweet Madness
    • Boston also had a song called "Don't Look Back", although it's decidedly far more upbeat than most of these examples, and uses the phrase to emphasize the message of optimism and living without regrets.
  • August 19, 2010
    Grandy
    Shouldn't Orpheus also be in Mythology?
  • August 19, 2010
    Ronka87
  • August 19, 2010
    dotchan
    The game Don't Look Back (Let's Played by Deceased Crab here) is a retelling of the Orpheus myth and, in the return trip, has that as a gameplay mechanic: facing the wrong way will cause Eurydice to dissolve and necessitate the player to replay that screen from the beginning.
  • August 19, 2010
    Stratadrake
    In some interpretations of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot's wife actually stopped and looked back. Meaning that Lot and his daughters kept on going ahead of her. A few modern hypotheses speculate this is why she was fried while Lot and his daughters were able to get away safely. If God rained down meteorites from the heavens, all it'd take is one landing nearby to reduce her to a charred skeleton.
  • August 22, 2010
    Xzenu
    @Grandy: Interesting question. Personally, I believe that Orpheus was a play BEFORE it became mythology (just like The Divine Comedy was a book before it became Word Of Dante). In either case, I think that the category Literature should have priority over the categories Mythology and Religion: If a story has it's source in a notable book, then that book is the aspect most relevant here on TV Tropes. This wiki is about stories: How various people value a certain story is secondary.
  • August 22, 2010
    ChevalierMalfait
    Please, OP, remove the gratuitously offensive terminology from the Sodom and Gomorrah example already. I don't see Hades, in the Orpheus example, being referred to as a "butcher" for taking Eurydice away, or being compared to Hitler. This is the fourth time someone has asked you. I should not like to bring this to the attention of Fast Eddie in Ask The Tropers, but if I have to, I will.
  • August 22, 2010
    SalFishFin
    There should be a note somewhere about Offscreen Teleportation.

    And Fix the Sodom and Gomorrah thing, please.
  • August 22, 2010
    alfredo094
    I think the name of the trope should be changed to "Never Turn Back", as reference to the song featured at thee end of Shadow The Hedgehog (composed by Crush 40).

    And guys, don't complain about the OP. "When the time comes, just act". Just change it yourelves.
  • August 22, 2010
    Xzenu
    @Chevalier Malfait: If Hades had actually killed her (it was a snake who did that), I would have been fine with calling him a murderer. Omniscient Morality License or not: Murder is still murder, and genocide is still genocide. But that issue is hardly relevant to this trope, and the original wording of the example would not have made it to final cut anyway. I had already toned it down, and alfredo have now edited it further. Case closed, please abstain from further off topic discussion.

    @alfredo094: I strongly disagree with your idea of replacing the Stock Phrase with some reference to a work. However, I can list your song as an example? Anyway, I don't object to your edit this time since I hadn't marked the thread as Rolling Updates and your version of the example is a good one. However, generally speaking...

    @[anyone who did read aldredo's general advice]: YKTTW doesn't work like the main pages - we don't have any "page history" here, so whatever is lost is LOST. Thus, deleting content becomes vandalism much easier. Please be careful and VERY restrictive with editing the main area of a YKTTW thread, EVEN if it's not marked Rolling Updates.

    I assume it's not doable with the current technical solution, but I'll add a request for page history being added to the YKTTW in Tech Wish List. People should be able to update each other's drafts without risk of content loss.
  • August 22, 2010
    alfredo094
    ^You could add it, of course.

    And what? It was a reference to Star Fox. I even pot holed it -_-. Of course I wouldn't destroy a YKTTW. I wouldn't like if someone did it to me. But offending Christians and causing a possible Edit War shouldn't be part of the wiki if we can avoid it.
  • August 23, 2010
    Medinoc
    Some versions of the Orpheus myth have him look back after he got out... But before Eurydice did.
  • August 23, 2010
    Xzenu
    Added it under Music: Sure it's from a Video Game, but if I got it right then it's the song that is an example and not the gameplay itself.
  • August 23, 2010
    Ramen
    At the end of the animated movie, Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki, Chihiro is forbidden to look back as she is journeying out of the spirit world.
  • August 24, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    @ The Bible example

  • August 24, 2010
    Sackett
    Some of the examples seem to be "Dont Look" instead of "Dont Look Back". Might be we have a supertrope and a subtrope here.
  • August 25, 2010
    Arivne
    Urban Legend
    • The Boyfriend's Death. When the girl is told to get out of the car by the police they tell her to not look back. She does, and sees either (a) the body of her boyfriend hanging down from a tree limb and scraping the roof with its fingers or (b) the madman who killed her boyfriend sitting on top of the roof and tapping it with her boyfriend's head.
  • August 25, 2010
    Bailey

  • August 25, 2010
    Bailey
  • August 26, 2010
    EponymousKid
    In I Can't Believe it's not the Justice League, the Superbuddies are in Hell and meet their long-deceased friend and teammate Ice. Eventually it comes to pass that the group is simply allowed to leave, and they can even take Ice with them - as long as none of them look back to make sure she's still there. Ice was Fire's best friend and the only person Guy Gardner ever truly loved - it was torture to not look. Ice says something just as they reach the end of the tunnel, and the two instinctively look back, causing her to disappear.
  • August 28, 2010
    Grandy
    Hey, suggestion: Change the title just to Dont Look. It'd have the same explanatin but then we'd be able to add examples like the Medusa or whatnot.
  • August 29, 2010
    Arivne
    Anime And Manga
    • Bleach anime episode 168. While Division 3 is fleeing a Restrictive Current in the Precipice World, Lieutenant Izuru Kira tells his men "Don't look back". He doesn't want them to be distracted by the pursuing threat.
  • August 29, 2010
    Xzenu
    I think "Don't Look" mostly falls under You Do NOT Want To Know.

    Also, I just gave Medusa a trope of her own.
  • August 31, 2010
    Xzenu
    Guess we are done here. Launching now. :-)
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