Over the summer, I started watching the HBO show “Sex and the City.” Although it initially started airing before I was born and ended when I was just a toddler, I had heard plenty about it. My parents frowned upon how sexually explicit it was. Fashion influencers on Instagram recreated Carrie Bradshaw’s best looks. Nobody could order a Cosmopolitan at a bar without someone making a “Sex and the City” reference. The show had a legacy, and I was eager to see if it lived up to the hype. More importantly, I wanted to see if the show had aged well.
My initial thought when watching the show was that Carrie Bradshaw had my dream life. She lived in New York City, had an amazing group of girlfriends, spent her free time shopping for designer shoes, and somehow was rich off of writing one article per week about her own sex life. Carrie was a strong, independent woman who was also confident and open with her body and sexuality. It seemed like this woman had it all. Who wouldn’t want to be like her?
My opinion began to change as I continued to watch the show. My main issues were with Carrie’s relationship with Mr. Big. How could such an independent woman lose herself so completely over a man who could not even commit to her?
For those that have not seen the show, here’s a rundown. Carrie meets a wealthy businessman who she and her friends jokingly call “Mr. Big.” His real name is never revealed until the very last episode of the series, creating a running gag where nobody knows his real name. Carrie falls hard for Big, but he is never willing to fully commit to her. They continuously break up and get back together throughout the series, each instance being messier than the last. At one point, Big even marries a different woman mere months after breaking up with Carrie. However, he instantly regrets it and starts an affair with Carrie, who has also started a new relationship.
This is where my opinion of Carrie tanked. Watching Carrie bend over backward to just get Big to meet her friends and spend the night at her place frustrated me immensely. Every time they broke up, it was because of Big’s inability to commit to Carrie, who wanted a marriage and family. He clearly did not want these things, so why was Carrie willing to sacrifice her own desires for him? When Carrie finally found a new boyfriend, Aiden, who was willing to give her a committed relationship, Carrie threw it away to have an affair with a married Big. Even when her friends advised her to not have an affair, Carrie acted as though she just could not control herself. After being caught in Big’s apartment by his own wife, she finally decided to let Big go. However, she ultimately got back together with him at the end of the show.
Carrie is an admirable character in the sense that she is flawed. It is refreshing to see a character make mistakes. However, I do not consider having an affair a mistake. It is a choice. I could have forgiven Carrie had she stepped back on her own free will, rather than being forced to step back when she got discovered by Big’s wife. I also could have forgiven her had she not gotten back with Big later in the series. Carrie did not learn from her mistakes and did not make amends for them.
The writers of the show also cast Carrie in a sympathetic light in the aftermath of the affair. What was even more outrageous was that they never called Big out for being the villain that he was: a cheating manipulator who put his own desires over everyone else’s despite not actually knowing what those desires were. Both characters were written as romantic heroes and were destined to be together. Perhaps given the way they both treated the other people in their lives, they were perfect for each other. Rather than role models, Carrie and Big are narcissists when viewed with a modern perspective.
“Sex and the City” is definitely an entertaining show. With its glitzy New York backdrop and hilarious situations the characters find themselves in, it is absolutely worth a watch. However, it is important to take it with a grain of salt. I consider it in the same league as “Gossip Girl,” where the characters constantly make poor decisions for our entertainment rather than to influence us. We can all aspire to be a woman like Carrie Bradshaw on paper, with her nice apartment in the city, never-ending supply of designer shoes, and minimum-effort creative job.
However, when it comes to her inner character, we should all aspire to be better. Unlike Carrie, we should value our friendships. We should never chase a man who does not care about us, and we should respect ourselves enough to know when we deserve better. We should also respect the feelings of those around us, especially when it comes to relationships. Perhaps when it comes to Carrie Bradshaw, we can look back on how women both on television and in real life have evolved and strive to keep doing better.