Carrie Bradshaw memes renegotiate the central questions of ‘Sex and the City’ from Mashable

Carrie Bradshaw is a narcissist. She’s a terrible friend. She’s delusional. She’s the problem. She’s problematic. Gen Z can’t handle her.

The internet has been throwing around these opinions since Sex and the City arrived on Netflix, ushering in a new wave of Carrie Bradshaw discourse nearly 26 years after the groundbreaking HBO series premiered. The show and its iconic heroine still strike a chord with viewers. Gen Z icon Olivia Rodrigo even weighed in during one of two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, wearing a bedazzled tank top that read “Carrie Bradshaw AF.” (The second night, she donned another embellished tank; this one said “And just like that.”)

Sex and the City has long been a source of inspiration for meme culture, something Sylvia Sierra, associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, attributes to the breadth of material fans have to play with. “People get really into referencing media where they can imagine themselves in that world,” she told Mashable. Throughout its six seasons, viewers get immersed in Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte’s lives as single women in New York City, and each episode includes memorable characters like Charlotte’s friend who steals her baby name and oddball plots like Miranda crushing on a sandwich. 

There are longstanding Sex and the City memes, like refashioning the structure of Carrie’s voiceovers to fit the current moment — starting with popular Carrie-isms like “I couldn’t help but wonder” and “And just like that.” Carrie’s outsized reactions are also endlessly reposted to react to headlines, especially when that news concerns New York City.  

Recently, a new meme has emerged: Big is moving to Paris. It’s mainly used to illustrate how consumed Carrie was by her own problems, specifically her relationship with Big. Twitter / X users write out a conversation in the voices of the three other protagonists of the show, ending with Carrie announcing, “Big is moving to Paris.” For instance, after an earthquake shook New York City one user wrote

Charlotte: It was 4.8 on the Richter scale!

Miranda: The Richter scale is a totally outdated method for measuring magnitudes and everyone knows it.

Samantha: Let’s just say it wasn’t the only thing making my walls shake this morning.

Carrie: Big is moving to Paris

Similar posts circulated after the solar eclipse. Soon, Carrie announcing Big’s move left the confines of Sex and the City‘s world making other popular characters, like Dune‘s Paul Atreides, say “Big is moving to Paris.”

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Unlike other often-quoted moments, Carrie never actually says, “Big is moving to Paris.” In the now infamous Season 2 episode that finds Samantha taking the girls to a S&M-themed restaurant, Charlotte getting involved with a shoe salesman with a foot fetish, and Miranda sleeping with an exhibitionist — that’s real television — Carrie breaks down at brunch with the girls. Big casually told her he might move to Paris for seven months. At brunch, she says, “I wanted to kill him. And he’s standing there giving me the ‘what’s the big problem’ eyes.”

She doesn’t even say “Big is moving to Paris” in the next episode when the girls stage an intervention with Carrie for excessively talking about their breakup.

Despite its absence, the phrase gets at a central tension of the series.

Why we’re still talking about Carrie Bradshaw

The meme “tickled” Sienna Axe, a 23-year-old in Seattle, so much that she changed her display name on X to “Big is moving to Paris.” It just made sense, she said. “I saw ‘Big moving in Paris’ and I was like, yeah Big is moving to Paris. She’s always saying that shit,” Axe told Mashable. “The world could be ending, and Big would still be moving to Paris and that would still be the most important thing in the world to Carrie Bradshaw.”

Axe first got hooked on the show after watching it with her mom, specifically the episode after Carrie and Big broke up and she has a brief fling with an overzealous jazz musician. “I thought it was just so crazy that I sat down and watched the rest of the show,” she said. 

Katherine Morgan, a 30-year-old writer and Powell’s Books employee in Portland, Oregon, recently wrote a thread defending Carrie against her critics but still laughed at the “Big is moving to Paris” meme. “She does that a lot when someone has news or is talking about current events and then she refocuses the conversation on Big,” she said.

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In 2013, writer Emily Nussbaum examined how Sex and the City played with the romantic comedy form by pushing back against viewers’ desire to identify with Carrie. For The New Yorker, she wrote, “It switched the romantic comedy’s primal scene, from ‘Me, too!’ to ‘Am I like her?’ A man practically woven out of red flags, Big wasn’t there to rescue Carrie; instead, his ‘great love’ was a slow poisoning. She spun out, becoming anxious, obsessive, and, despite her charm, wildly self-centered—in her own words, ‘the frightening woman whose fear ate her sanity.'”

One could argue that Carrie’s reaction to Big moving to Paris exemplifies Big’s poison driving her to insanity. As one X user wrote, “This is the most down bad anyone’s ever been btw.”

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“​​People often look to the media for examples of how to behave and do things in their everyday life and what personalities to have or behavior to enact,” said Sierra. Memes are a way for viewers to negotiate those examples. “People use memes to circumscribe the boundaries of what is acceptable and isn’t acceptable.” 

The “Big is moving to Paris” meme rejects Big’s hold over Carrie. “They’re distancing themselves [from Carrie] and communicating that this is not what we want to be by ridiculing and laughing about that character,” said Sierra. 

“There’s so many stereotypes, and ideologies embedded in the media that we consume. In this case, it’s a stereotype about a certain woman who’s very self-centered. When you recirculate it, you’re bringing that stereotype to mind, but by making fun of it, you’re rejecting that way of being, and presenting an ideology that’s not acceptable,” she continued.

By making fun of it, you’re rejecting that way of being, and presenting an ideology that’s not acceptable.

But even during Sex and the City‘s cultural heyday, Carrie and Big’s relationship was a point of contention for fans. In 2002, Joke Hermes, a professor of media, culture, and citizenship at Inholland University, conducted a study of conversations about the show on Jump the Shark, an internet forum for discussing when a television show fell off. “People reacted strongly against the Carrie and Big storyline early on,” Hermes told Mashable. 

Like Sierra, she sees the memes as reacting to something bigger than just the characters. “[Carrie and Big] explore women’s condition. We have the jobs we want to do, we are our own women, and then there’s this old dream of finding the right guy to be a complete person, which is — as we used to say in the 1980s — the complete myth of patriarchy,” said Hermes. “It’s an ongoing discussion about how we think about men and women today and whether we’re still invested in thinking about femininity and masculinity as total opposites.”

It’s easy to reject Carrie, but there are those like Morgan who embrace her chaos. “It’s freeing to have a model for being loud and wrong because sometimes you have to be a little bit loud and wrong and say what you think so your friends can correct you,” Axe said. Being loud and wrong is an essential part of growing up, and in an era where so many women are growing up publicly — whether that be Rodrigo or your average TikTokker in NYC — Carrie Bradshaw is relatable. When Rodrigo calls herself “Carrie Bradshaw AF” she’s embracing the messy side of love and womanhood.

While the internet continues to wrestle with issues we’ve failed to resolve in the past 26 years via Carrie and Big, every New York City transplant on TikTok will continue to battle it out to be “the next Carrie Bradshaw.”

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