This is Us, a new hit television series, has a unique comedy-drama story line that has captured the hearts of millions of viewers in just a few short months. I’m not typically one who gets drawn into television shows, but something about this one has captivated me. Because of its popularity, it can easily be used as a starting point for a great discussion within your apostolate.
This is Us seamlessly demonstrates how the events of our past significantly impact the person we are today by using scenes from both the characters’ childhoods and present day lives. Viewers follow the story of parents Rebecca and Jack, their biological children Kate and Kevin, and their adoptive son, Randall as they face struggles and trials that are common to so many of us. The characters and situations are very relatable. They truly deal with everything from surface-level issues of popularity and sibling rivalry to the deeper issues of life and death.
Though not every point of view in the show aligns with Catholic teaching, there are many poignant scenes that can be useful to help create discussion among your family, within your apostolate, or even simply for personal reflection. You can find full episodes here to show the complete scenes in your ministry (we could only list promo clips in our post).
5 Themes to Talk About in This is Us
This is Us does an incredible job of conveying both the realistic joys and difficulties present in marriage. Not everything comes easy for the Pearsons, but Rebecca and Jack manage to get through life’s trials by facing them together. They model forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and keeping the romance alive in a marriage. .
Discuss: Talk about some of the strengths and weaknesses in the Pearson’s marriage. How do you maintain the loving relationship between you and your spouse? Because the Pearsons do not have a relationship with God they rely on each other to meet needs only God can meet, why does that create stress in marriage? Do you rely on God or your spouse? In the season finale, the couple engages in a heated argument. Rebecca is voicing some frustrations that many moms can relate to and Jack raises an interesting question when he asks her if he and the kids are not fulfilling her. What brings you fulfillment?
“Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” – Ecclesiastes 4:11-12
There are so many parenting lessons that can be taught from just this one scene in the series. Parenting is going to make us uncomfortable at times. Even when we think we’ve reached our limits, we are going to be asked to dig deeper and push ourselves harder than we could have ever imagined.
Discuss: How does this scene inspire you as a parent? Do you give this much of yourself to your children? It is clear that Rebecca and Jack value family, which is important, but is there ever a point when our society values family more than God? How does having God as your center help you as a parent? What is the goal of Catholic parenting?
“As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15
3. Grief and Loss
Jack and Rebecca lost one of their triplets at birth and this scene shows how they continue to struggle with the death of their child. Throughout the series, we also see how the tragic death of Jack effects Rebecca, Kate, Kevin, and Randall in their day to day lives. Randall is also dealing with the death of his biological father.
Discuss: Many of the scenes in This is Us remind us that grief can be an ongoing battle throughout our lives. What are some things you can do to deal with your loss in a healthy way? How can you bring support and comfort to others when they are suffering the loss of a loved one? How can a Christian deal with grief differently than a person who does not have a relationship with Christ?
“When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Sir, come and see.’ And Jesus wept.” – John 11:33-25
I’m not sure if the writers of this show intended it or not, but there is an underlying pro-life theme throughout this series. From this heartfelt scene in which Rebecca speaks to her unborn children to the way in which Randall cares for his dying father, it is clear that all life is respected in this show.
Discuss: How does this scene help to show life in the womb? What other scenes throughout the series promote the value and dignity of all life? How could you share one of these moments in the show with a family member or friend and start a discussion about pro-life issues?
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5
5. Anxiety and Stress
Randall appears to be the one out of the three siblings that has his life most together. He has a beautiful family, a successful career, and never misses a run. Yet, as the series progresses we see that things aren’t as perfect as they appear to be for Randall. He struggles with managing his stress and anxiety. Randall’s character reminds us that it is important to seek help when we are struggling and it is not a sign of weakness to rely on others.
Discuss: Do you suffer from fear and anxiety? How do you handle your stress? What additional things can Catholics do when we experience this type of anxiety? How can you identify and help a friend or family member that may be struggling with these things?
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Did you manage to make it through all those clips without crying?
As you can see from the scenes above, This is Us engages with the viewer on an emotional level. There are many other scenes throughout the full episodes that you can use to help in discussions about these 5 themes. Point out the many positive elements of the series and the way the characters respond to life’s situations, but also challenge those you are discussing with to think about how a Catholic could have handled the situation differently or asked for God’s help.