News Editor Tim Carlin and Opinion Editor Rebecca Wolff discuss their thoughts on Carrie and Big’s relationship in Sex and the City. This conversation was edited for clarity.
Tim: So why are we on the phone today?
Rebecca: We are discussing whether or not Carrie and Big’s relationship in Sex and the City deserves to be the central relationship ... because it was toxic.
T: And I completely disagree with you.
R: Right? For some reason.
T: Okay, make your case.
R: All right, well, this is my opening statement; So, first of all, there were a lot of other relationships in this show that were so sweet and deserved more of a spotlight, such as Carrie and Aiden, or Steve and Miranda, even Samantha and Smith had a healthier relationship.
So my case is Carrie and Big were so toxic, and it just sucks so bad. He is an immature middle-aged man who ran around town in his friggin’ limousine town car and was leading Carrie on for 10 years and then finally after his second marriage, decided to be with her.
Even in the movies, he leaves her at the church, and then when they finally get married, he wants two days off a week? That’s just so rude and manipulative. He gaslighted her the whole entire time, and I just hate it.
T: I think they’re the central relationship for a reason. The show is about Carrie finding her own voice as a grown woman. So her and Big’s relationship needs to be central because Carrie sees in Big what she wants out of her own life.
She wants to be heard and be seen for the independent, strong woman that she is and the way that Big is allowed to be. So the reason that their relationship can be toxic is because they're both passionate, and they're both so similar.
Carrie needs to learn to stand up for herself. That's why her and Big break up so many times. At the end of the first season, Carrie breaks up with Big because she won’t let him drag her around. Their relationship is supposed to show that you can be a strong, independent woman. You don't need to rely on a man, but you can still find a love that compliments you as an individual.
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R: OK, you've made a good case for them being the central relationship. I cannot lie. But that doesn't change the fact that their relationship was toxic even if passion was a part of that.
I think that Carrie did want to be like Big in that sense, but I think Big also used that to manipulate her.
When she was in the relationship with Aiden and was finally in a successful relationship with someone who supported her and let her be independent, he basically coerced her into having an affair with him.
T: Okay, but doesn't that just show you they both really love each other? Even when they're with other people, deep down, they know it's not working.
R: I think Carrie gave him so many opportunities to see that, and then he wouldn't let her be out in between because he was too “passionate” to let her live her life. I just don't see that as respectable behavior.
T: I get what you're saying, and I do agree to a certain extent. But the reason he couldn't leave her alone is because he loved her, and he also knew she had the same love for him.
Maybe I just believe too much in love.
I get what you're saying that Big didn't let Carrie be happy with Aiden. But I don't think she was truly happy with Aiden. Carrie had that taste of what a relationship with Big was like. She knew she could be challenged to be a strong, independent woman.
Then when she got with Aiden, it wasn't the same type of love. There wasn't the same feeling she had with Big.
R: I thought at the beginning of her relationship and basically the whole rest of the time, she was hesitant about him because they didn't have the drama that she and Big had. She was hesitant at first because she thought with passion came drama. Aidan just loves her and wants her to be happy.
Something bigger isn't always better.
I think we saw that the first three times they got together, and then when they finally did end up together in the movies, it still went to shit.
T: I do have to agree with you there. I think they kept coming back to each other because they knew there was love there. It was hard to manifest itself because Carrie and Big were in such different places in their lives each time they were together until the end of the series when it finally worked out. It took so long because neither of them were fully ready to give themselves to the other person.
R: Okay, I guess you can see it that way, but the way I have been seeing it is Carrie was always just kind of available for Big because she knew that was the most passion and love she was ever going to get in any relationship.
It just felt like Big was settling for her thinking, “I always have Carrie because she's always available. She’s never said no to me.” And then it just happened again and again.
T: I don't think Carrie was available to Big. I think he thought she was always available, until she wasn’t. Carrie had to become strong enough to say no to Big, which happened throughout the series.
In the beginning, there was definitely a power struggle between Big’s role as a Manhattan CEO and Carrie being an independent writer. But the tumultuous nature of their relationship was a vehicle for Carrie to become strong and independent.
Carrie had to prove to herself that although she had this big love for Big, she could find love with other people and be on her own. We saw that with her other relationships throughout the series. Big had to realize that Carrie wasn't just some play toy for him, and that he had to respect her.
R: I just think that this relationship sucked so bad that it took her six seasons to bounce back from that and become independent. That to me was the crazy part.
We keep saying the central relationship in the show is Carrie and Big, but it is obvious that, like, the actual spotlight was on the relationship with her friends, right?
So, if anything really pushed her to be independent and strong, it was those relationships. They were there for her to pick up the pieces every time Big broke her heart, which is a lot of times.
I don't think that Big breaking her was making her strong. I think it was like her friends lifting her up from that.
T: Carrie’s friends being her support system was definitely the backbone of the show. But if Carrie and Big’s relationship hadn't been there, Carrie would be static.
She learned so much from her romantic relationships that she brought into the other parts of her life. You can't have the girls helping her without Big hurting her, and she couldn’t have grown without the girls’ guidance.
R: Okay, I see what you're saying, but why would you have to romanticize the breaking of it? Why does she have to end up with him?
Why does that have to be like, “Okay, now I'm complete! Now I'm ready to be with you!” It just feels very much like a toxic power dynamic. Yes, Carrie grows so much. So what? She had to become more of a complete person to finally be ready for him? He has so many issues, too, and I never really saw him really grow from any of those.
T: They both had to grow and be willing to be with each other. Carrie had to realize that she didn't need Big in order to be happy, and Big needed to realize that Carrie wasn't just an option for him.
I will agree that it's very harsh, and the show didn't need to romanticize the breaking down of Carrie. But I think just as much as the show depicted her being broken down, it showed her being built back up stronger every time.
R: Okay. I really do see your side. I stand by my argument, but I get what you're saying.
T: Right. And I think the takeaway point is that the entire relationship isn't toxic. They had to learn how to not be toxic in order for their relationship to succeed.
R: I feel like I'm in a good place with my thoughts now, like we're very much on the same page.
T: I feel like we are, too! I think this was really productive.
R: Wow. I can finally watch Sex and the City in peace.