Sex and the City: How Carrie Was Wrong About Everything

Sex and the City is one of the most beloved shows of its era. But we don’t love it because its characters are always loveable. In fact, part of its enduring appeal is that it centers on four women who are flawed and frustrating and often get things wrong – we enjoy watching them learn and grow on their journey. And at the middle of this imperfect quartet is narrator Carrie Bradshaw.

She’s the main character who many love to hate, the kind of heroine that occasionally makes us throw stuff at the TV, because so many of her choices and attitudes are just plain wrong – from the way she treats her friends and partners to her deep seated self-esteem issues that she was never quite ready to work on. So let’s take a look at some of the things Carrie was totally wrong about (and how her willingness to keep trying despite her faults was her saving grace.)

The way she treats her friends

Throughout the series, Carrie talks a lot about the great value of friendship. But she often doesn’t live up to those values, even though her friends do. These are women who’d do anything for her. But Carrie’s actually not a girl’s girl. There are multiple moments in the show when she lets her selfishness take over when her friends need her – whether they need her reassurance, or her physical presence. Take, for example, the moment in season 4 when Miranda puts her neck out and Carrie sends Aidan over to help her, instead of going herself. It results in Aidan finding Miranda on the floor of her bathroom, naked.

If you fell, I would never send my boyfriend to help you… he saw me naked! Your boyfriend saw me naked on the floor, on a bathmat!”

Or the time she walks in on Samantha with a mailman and Samantha realizes that Carrie is judging her for her sexual freedom…

lf l walked in on you giving a bl*w job to a Worldwide Express guy…” “You wouldn’t because that is something l would never do.” “There. I cannot believe you would judge me after everything we’ve been through.”

Despite having mined stories about Samantha’s sexuality for a big part of her career, Carrie is repulsed when she’s actually faced with it, and she doesn’t even try to hide it from Samantha. In this way, Carrie is selfish and doesn’t give her friends the amount of support – whether emotional or physical – that she so readily expects from them.

In fact, she expects so much from her friends – including money. She fights with Charlotte because Charlotte doesn’t instantly offer her $30,000 to buy her apartment and she’s really offended when Charlotte does what a good friend would do, and gives her a hard truth.

Carrie, I love you, but it’s not my job to fix your finances. You’re a 35 year old woman, you need to learn to stand on your own.”

Carrie insults Charlotte, likening Charlotte’s marriage to her own financial frivolity. But by the end of the episode, Charlotte has given Carrie her engagement ring to sell for a down payment. And this is a pattern throughout the series; she never really puts value in what her friends care about. When Charlotte gets engaged again, Carrie is pretty dismissive, wanting to focus on her own issues. And she fails to read the room when her friends go through huge life changes, rather than growing with them and working through things together.

Her post-feminist priorities

In many ways, Carrie is a perfect portrait of the post-feminist woman of her era. In 2007, Rosalind Gill defined part of postfeminist media culture as women “producing themselves as desirable heterosexual subjects as well as pleasing men sexually, protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, defending their own sexual reputations and taking care of men’s self-esteem”. This quote really seems to define the way Carrie behaves around Mr Big – the way she creates this illusion of a woman for him, who is perfect and prim and doesn’t even pass gas.

“You farted! You’re human.” “Well, I don’t want him to know that. I mean he’s this perfect guy, perfect perfect perfect, and I’m the girl who farts.”

Their toxic relationship put so much pressure on Carrie that she dramatically changes herself, and it really hurts her – but when he reads her book and finally realizes, Carrie just brushes it all off in the hope he’ll have sex with her again. The way Carrie repeatedly punishes herself in order to fit into the shape of Big’s ideal woman evidences a lot of internalized misogyny; so while she lives the life of a liberated woman, she’s actually trapped by the way she views herself and others. She berates herself for not being perfect, and constantly sizes herself up against other women. Of course, Big does nothing to placate her, spending years with her without committing and then getting engaged to Natasha pretty much as soon as they broke up.

But Carrie’s total disregard for feminism – which is a phenomenon she never really mentions – seems to be causing her more problems than if she just did the work of interrogating why she feels the way she does. And it means that reality often hits her out of left field – when, for example, she splits up with Aidan and he offers her the choice between buying her apartment and moving out, she’s hung up on her perfect idea of what a relationship – and a breakup – ought to look like.

“Great love stories are supposed to end with tragedy and tears, not papers from the law firm of Gold and Vogel.”

And it takes her friends giving her a reality check to try to snap her out of it. Later in that same episode, she goes to see Big, who writes her a check for the down payment – and Miranda straight talks her into realizing that she can’t accept it. In Carrie’s rose-tinted world, it’s like these realities don’t exist. Though she’d never admit it, she wants this fairytale of being rescued by a rich man, (which is why Big was always so appealing to her.)

Aidan… (aka her obsession with what’s unavailable)

And speaking of men… When we’re talking about things Carrie got wrong, Aidan deserves a whole chapter. Here was a guy with very simple needs and wants, who loved Carrie for Carrie – and yet, she just couldn’t get on board with the pure, gentle acceptance he offered her. What we saw was that, in spite of all of her talk about wanting to be in a healthy relationship, Carrie actually loved the chase that Big offered her, rather than the solidity Aidan gave her.

Maybe we should see each other less then we can miss each other more. You’re so available to me, and I’m so available to you…”

She and Aidan break up after she admits her infidelity, only to get back together in the next season. But when she finds Aidan chatting with a barmaid at Steve’s bar, Carrie is instantly jealous, and becomes needy around Aidan, thinking he’s going to cheat on her. The obsession is rekindled in her now that he’s not so readily available as he once was. Ultimately, Carrie could never end up with Aidan – it had to be Big, because even when he committed to her, they were still on slightly uneven ground. She never felt comfortable with him, and never really knew where she was with him – a fact that was reiterated in the first movie, when he left her at the altar, and even when they’re seemingly happy in the second movie, when she says he always ‘colors outside the lines.’

Her victim mentality

Carrie is very lucky to be surrounded by three loving, stable friends who help anchor her more flighty nature in reality – but even they can’t always get through to her. Throughout the series, Carrie’s friends regularly try to give her advice, particularly around her relationship with Big. But she’s never willing to listen, and instead usually gets upset and lashes out whenever they try to talk to her about it.

“Oh my god, you’re sleeping with Big? Carrie, he was such an asshole to you!” “You know what I’m really not in the mood to see a movie any more.”

When Carrie cheats on Aidan with Big, her friends (unsurprisingly) have big feelings about it. Carrie oscillates between a wounded victim…

Everybody is not as tough as you, Miranda. People… Some of us make mistakes.”

and claiming that she’s been overcome by something more powerful than she is.

“It was a force bigger than me, like Niagara Falls or something, you know.”

This even extends to her shopping habits. Part of the show’s enduring appeal lies in Carrie’s absolutely incredible wardrobe, but it emerges in season 4 that she’s somehow, apparently unknowingly, spent tens of thousands of dollars on shoes.

“I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live?”

All of her friends reveal that they own their apartments, and she realizes she’s spent her down payment shopping. The idea of retail therapy is very much of-the-era of Sex and the City – but it seems like what Carrie really needed was real therapy. Her deep anxieties and lack of self worth couldn’t be cured by an unrequited love affair with consumption. And yet she shops like she’s powerless to resist. So much of what Carrie got wrong was this idea that she was ‘following her destiny’, or that things ‘happened’ to her, but all that did was absolve her of responsibility for her actions, and allow her to perpetuate harmful, problematic patterns.


Carrie was deeply flawed, but that was also kind of the point – she wasn’t some prim and perfect lovely lady floating her way through life without making any mistakes. Quite the opposite, in fact; Carrie never met a mistake she couldn’t work into her life somehow. But that’s what made her relatable in her own way – even though her choices were often ridiculous, they often connected to a part of us that makes silly choices or feels a way we know we shouldn’t about something (or someone.) And in that way she could make us really rethink some of our own behavior.

The writers have attempted to correct or deal with some of Carrie’s ‘main character syndrome’ in the sequel series And Just Like That, but a lot of it so far has just felt like the same old mistakes or a complete sanding down of her character. But in the end, all of Carrie’s flaws – and her major Main Character Syndrome – were what made her unique. She wasn’t confident like Samantha, or hopeful like Charlotte, or self-sufficient like Miranda, she was – and it seems will always be – a bit of a mess. And annoying as it can be, it’s also why we love to watch her.

“Hi, it’s Carrie Bradshaw. I wanted to let you know that I’m getting married. To myself. And I’m registered at Manolo Blahnik.”