After a hookup during which she “had sex like a man,” a smiling Carrie Bradshaw walks down the street confident and with the material she needs for her weekly column. But she soon falls off her high horse when she bumps into someone and drops her open purse. Luckily, a suave knight in shining New York businessman armor quickly saves her. In her words, he’s very handsome, not wearing a wedding ring, and now knows she carries a personal supply of ultra-textured Trojans with the reservoir tip. When she stands up, she locks eyes with the man. That man becomes known as Mr. Big––the adored yet unattainable love of Carrie’s life throughout the entire run of Sex and the City.
Sex and the City follows Carrie and her three best friends––Samantha Jones, Charlotte York, and Miranda Hobbes––around their myriad romances and deep friendship in New York City. It is truly one of my all-time favorite shows. Whether I’m quoting an iconic line from Samantha or deciding which hybrid of characters I am (I’m a weird Carrie, Miranda, and Samantha combination, according to my friends), I know it well and think about it often. But I do find myself continually considering Mr. Big’s role in Carrie’s life. While we see Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte go through different relationships and sexcapades, Carrie is stuck on Big, no matter how many other romances she pursues. And, as a result, viewers are stuck on Big too.
Rebecca Solnit wrote in her book Men Explain Things To Me that “We crave what is mysterious [because] it arouses us and fascinates us.” Following their first verbal interaction, Big indeed presents himself as an enigma. When Carrie asks if he’s ever been in love, he responds with his famous “abso-fucking-lutely” and drives off into the night. Carrie is instantly intrigued, as am I. Many questions run through my head, despite having seen this moment so much I know it by heart: who is he, and why am I so interested in knowing more? I realize now that’s part of the mystery of Big, but during my most recent round of rewatching, I’ve come to see Mr. Big as a big red flag.
During the first season and the onset of their relationship, Carrie does the unthinkable—she farts in bed. Completely embarrassed, she runs out of his apartment and refuses to call him. Somehow, once she starts telling her girlfriends what happened, she can’t stop talking about it. In a moment of not wanting to think about it, Carrie calls up Miranda, and of course, they end up talking about Big. While Miranda is visibly annoyed at the continuous conversation about the farting, Carrie admits a scary truth: when she’s around him, she’s not herself. She’s together, tries to seem perfect, and refuses to be anything remotely human, even saying, “I think I’m in love with him, and I’m terrified he’s gonna leave me because I’m not perfect.” The part of me that identifies with Carrie completely understands this; one little mistake and the relationship could be out the window. But I also see this as Carrie’s first acceptance of her obsession with Big and their relationship.
About halfway through Season 3, Carrie, in a committed relationship with furniture designer Aidan Shaw, starts sleeping with Big. Eventually, Charlotte finds out, and Carrie slowly begins to reveal this secret to her other girlfriends. Miranda, who always tells Carrie how it is, admits that Carrie becomes a needy and insecure person where Big is concerned, yet somehow is always still willing to keep going back to him. Carrie denies this, creating friction between them. But what Miranda brings up is the truth, and I always come back to her words when thinking about the Big/Carrie dynamic. Needy, insecure, but always willing to go back for more. In other words, despite this darker side that Big brings out of Carrie, she’s still yearning for his attention and affection.
The theory of sexual economics suggests that men offer commitment, attention, love, time, and sex to women, leading them to give themselves up entirely to a man. In a way, this is precisely Carrie’s problem with Big: she is hungry for that time and attention he can’t give her. She may not realize that Mr. Big is a big fuckboy: although he and Carrie have fantastic sex, go out on the town, and have the most undeniable chemistry both in and outside of the bedroom, he cannot provide her with the real love Carrie desires. Throughout the show, he excludes Carrie from significant life decisions, decides when he wants to have sex, and is hesitant to have her meet his mother (he ends up introducing her as a friend)––all at his satisfaction. My strange character hybrid suddenly emerges as I write this. Of course, the Miranda and Samantha of my mind are screaming, “WHAT IS SHE DOING?” But the Carrie side of my brain slightly understands why she keeps going back to him. In words like Carrie’s, I can’t help but wonder: in relationships, is it worth trying to tie down that one impossible person for love, or do you let them fly?
Spoiler alert: Big and Carrie end up together. I can’t help but want to scream at my computer, but I also realize that he probably is the right guy for her. Although I’m no expert, her going back to him and comparing all her lovers to him must really mean he’s the one for her. After all, she’s felt it this entire time. But beyond the fictional world of Sex and the City, it’s human to fall in love with someone we can’t entirely have. Psychologist Seth Meyers explained, “If the unavailable man finally comes around and commits, they’ll—at long last—have proof that they are worthy.” I can say with the utmost faith that it takes Big a long time to come around, but when he does, he finally acknowledges his past wrongdoings and how much he hurt her. Perhaps that’s all he needed to do––admit his damage and show he had changed. But after rounds of rewatching and much pondering, Big hasn’t entirely won me over. As all my ways of thinking mold together, I can’t forget his harm and selfishness, but I’m still reminded of Carrie and Big’s profound connection. I’m not hopping on the Big bandwagon, but I am beginning to understand why he is the one.
By Colette Bernheim