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Past in the Rear-View Mirror

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"With no way to deal with the past, I kept my eyes on the road, off the rear view mirror and the roadkill behind me. I chased lesser mysteries, other people's crimes."
Max Payne, Max Payne 2

Using the rear-view mirror of a car as a metaphor for reflecting upon the past, or leaving something behind. Common in pop music, but also occurs in fiction. If someone removes their rear view mirror or refuses to look at it, that's a metaphor for leaving their past behind and looking to the future. (Warning: do not attempt to remove your rear-view mirror to attain personal growth.)


For references to the warning "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear", see Closer than They Appear. A popular choice for a Break-Up Song or other "goodbye song." Don't be surprised to hear a rhyme with "nearer" or "clearer."



  • Many biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs, including those of Cindy Callinsky, Dale Earnhardt, and Sal Marchiano.


  • See the quotes page for longer specific examples.
  • Meat Loaf - "Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are"
  • Nick Lachey - "What's Left of Me" ("Watch my life / Pass me by / In the rear view mirror")
  • Jo Dee Messina - "Bye Bye" ("And a rear view mirror torn off / Cause I ain't ever looking back")
  • Julie Roberts - "Break Down Here": a Dual-Meaning Chorus - the first chorus has a literal rear view mirror, and the second one a metaphorical one.
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  • Doug Supernaw - "She Never Looks Back"
  • Brantley Gilbert - "More Than Miles" ("God, what am I supposed to do?/There's more than my miles in my rear view")
  • Pearl Jam - "Rearviewmirror"
  • Alicia Keys - "Rear View Mirror"
  • Mac Davis - "Texas in My Rear View Mirror"
  • Bobby Valentino - "Rearview"
  • Jet Black Stare - "Rear View Mirror"
    Tired of living life through the rearview mirror
  • Grandaddy - "Rear View Mirror"
    Rear view mirror / Don't wanna live life looking through a—
  • Rapper Big Pooh - "Rearview Mirror"
    I'm seeing life in my rear view mirror / And I recognise that people do change
  • Rebecca Lynn Howard - "Tennessee in My Windshield" (and Kentucky in my rear view mirror)
  • Bon Jovi - "Lost Highway"
    In my rear view mirror, my life is getting clearer
  • Hilary Duff - "The Getaway"
    Every time I think you're gone / You show up in my rear view mirror
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  • John Mellencamp - "Longest Days" ("All I got here / Is a rear view mirror / Reflections of where I've been")
  • Zach Macko - "Home" ("My rear-view mirror plays like a movie screen / With every passing scene bleeds a memory")
  • Pink Floyd - "Two Suns In The Sunset"
  • Graziano Romani - "The Bridges You Burn" ("check my past in the rear-view mirror / don't recognize the face I see")
  • Harmony James - "Tailwind"
  • Patty Loveless' "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye" uses the back window of a '55 wagon instead.
  • The All-American Rejects "Night Drive"
  • Demi Lovato - "Mistake"
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Aeroplane" has this:
    "Looking in my rear view mirror
    I can make it disappear
    Have no fear!"
  • Montgomery Gentry - "Speed", a country song in which the singer is trading in his pickup truck after a breakup and trying to buy a fast car to get out of town, and specifically states he's tearing off the rear view mirror.
  • In the final verse of Taylor Swift's "White Horse" she sings about leaving her small town and ex-lover behind.
    This is a big world, that was a small town
    There in my rear-view mirror disappearing now
    And it's too late for you and your white horse
  • Dierks Bentley - "Settle for a Slowdown," from POV of the person in the past being left behind for bigger things.
    I must look just like a fool
    Here in the middle of the road
    Standin' there in your rear view
    And gettin' soaked to the bone
  • Blur in the Rear View is a play by Aleks Merilo in which "three people who were affected by a horrible tragedy when they were in high school [...] meet eight years later and look back at their relationships before and after that tragedy."

Video Games

  • Max Payne 2 has Max using the rear view mirror metaphor as he attempts to move on from the events of the first game.

Web Comics


  • "Rear view mirror" is the name of an exhibition of photographs of historical automobiles.