Closer Than They Appear

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
You know what we mean.

Rear-view mirrors sometimes come with a warning: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."[1] This is not reassuring to the character who looks into the rear-view mirror and sees, say, a T. rex running after his car.

Truth in Television in some countries! Except for the T. rex part. For now...

Compare Danger Takes a Backseat. For a more metaphorical use of rear-view mirrors, see Past in The Rearview Mirror.

An interesting note: some examples of this trope (including the Trope Codifier) show this message on the driver's side mirror. In Real Life, it only ever appears on the passenger side mirror. In the USA and Canada, the driver's side mirror is required to be flat, so putting the warning message there would be inappropriate. In Europe, the driver's side mirror may also be convex, but the warning is not required. See The Other Wiki for even more detail.

Examples of Closer Than They Appear include:


Live Action TV

  • The Eureka episode "One Giant Leap" has a brief closer-than-it-appears shot of a black hole in the mirror of Carter's jeep, right before it gets destroyed. Again.


  • Jim Steinman inverted the phrase in the song "Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are" (recorded by Meat Loaf), describing old memories that are nonetheless very vivid.
  • Bobby Valentino - "Rear View Mirror": "I see your face and I miss you dear / Images in the mirror, closer than they appear"
  • They Might Be Giants - "She's Actual Size" averts this for the subject of the song: "Squares may look distant in a rear view mirror, but they're actual size, actual size to her."

Newspaper Comics

  • Seen in a Far Side cartoon: The rear-view mirror shows the angry eye of an unspecified but huge creature.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • "Objects may be less sexy than they appear" shows up on a high-tech clothes shop mirror in Futurama.
  • Parodied in Codename: Kids Next Door, where the mirror on a vehicle says "Missiles in mirror may be closer than they appear.
  • In "|Hercules and the Gorgon", his shield says "Objects are closer then they appear".
  1. These mirrors are convex, so they provide a wider field of view at the price of making the images of objects smaller, and therefore apparently farther away.