Lessons of Tuttle Twins: Freedom of Speech
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Lessons of Tuttle Twins: Freedom of Speech

by Angel Studios | October 31, 2023

When Karinne plays dirty in her campaign for Kids’ Club President, the twins must learn the hard truth about free speech and why it should be protected at all costs. 

Tuttle Twins is a clever animated series that follows inquisitive twins Ethan and Emily Tuttle, along with their time-traveling grandma, on zany adventures to discover truths about freedom and economics. 

In the eleventh episode of the hit show, entitled “Free Speech Freestyle,” Ethan and Emily discover the vital importance of the First Amendment. 

Image of Ethan, Emily, Gabby, and James Madison

Episode 11: Free Speech Freestyle Synopsis 

The eleventh installment of the Tuttle Twins animated series opens with a campaign video for Karinne, the neighborhood’s very own tyrant, and her philosophy might be questionable: “Being president isn’t just about me, it’s only about me.”

Karinne is running a cutthroat campaign for Kids’ Club President, not only to regain control over the other neighborhood children, but also to win her own parents’ “Daughter of the Year” award yet again. (She’s their only daughter.) She’s frustrated with her ever-loosening grip on the Kids’ Club, and she’s especially threatened by Ethan Tuttle’s plans to run. Taking the advice of her power-hungry parents, Karinne decides to play dirty.

Ethan Tuttle and his family are busy making campaign signs when a particularly vicious smear ad against Ethan comes on the TV. Ethan is furious at Karinne’s audacity and ability to spread false information that defames Ethan’s character, and he becomes even more perplexed when Mr. Tuttle informs him that “hate speech” has never been defined by a court of law. Karinne has the right to say mean things about Ethan, even publicly. 

Both livid and scared for the fate of his campaign, Ethan vows that, if he’s elected, he will make it illegal to make mean statements and tell lies. Ethan and Emily have resolved to start by tearing down Karinne’s billboards that claim the presidential hopeful hates baby otters in hats (a despicable and atrocious claim) when Grandma Gabby shows up. Upon hearing the twins’ predicament, Gabby decides to take the kids back in time to visit her good friend James.

After breaking a wheelchair-sized hole in the ceiling of the White House, Gabby introduces the kids to James Madison, the president and one of the authors of the Bill of Rights. The twins are flabbergasted when Grandma Gabby begins to make fun of the particularly short president’s height, and they tell her she can’t say those sorts of things about the president. They’re even more shocked when President Madison strongly disagrees.

Madison informs the twins that Grandma Gabby is exercising her right to free speech, no matter how frustrating it may get being teased for being an especially little commander-in-chief. He reminds the twins of the vital importance of freedom of speech, and that this right became law to protect one’s right to express themselves. 

The twins explain their situation to President Madison. As soon as his shock wears off at the future existence of female politicians (*gasp*), he advises the twins that Karinne’s opinions–even the mean ones–are protected by the First Amendment. Why, he asks the twins, would we want the government to control what can and can’t be said? The twins accept the (sometimes frustrating) truth that all words are legal. “Part of the price of free speech is accepting that some people might say mean things you don’t agree with, even lies,” Madison explains. He references his good friend Thomas Jefferson, and his teaching that reason and persuasion are the most effective tools against slander. 

Though the twins are beginning to understand the First Amendment and how it applies to their particular predicament, Ethan is still a bit puzzled. How can he stand up for himself without silencing Karinne?

It’s at this musing that Gabby decides to take the twins to their first-ever concert. But first, they make a pit stop to pick up Ha-Joon, another one of Grandma Gabby’s good friends. The group then jumps dimensions into a world unlike any they’ve ever seen. 

The group lands in the middle of an exciting concert on a planet of anthropomorphic communication devices, from laptops, to flip phones, to crayons. Grandma Gabby joins the concert’s headliner, Mr. Megaphone, in his rap show. “The best speech is speech used for good to spread joy and light in your neighborhood…” Mr. Megaphone raps. “...you may not like the stuff they say, but protect all free speech anyway.” Emily brings the concert to a halt when she comments that Mr. Megaphone’s music style is outdated, but Mr. Megaphone isn’t offended. He tells Emily that although he disagrees with her, she has the right to express how she feels. Seeing their cordial interaction, Ethan resolves to make a campaign movie that defends his own character with truth and reason—not one that takes away Karinne’s right to disagree.

Ha-Joon tells the twins that she grew up in North Korea, where concerts are illegal. The gang then lands in present-day North Korea, a land without free speech. From a dark and empty apartment and with the curtains drawn, she briefs the twins on life in North Korea. Everyone is taught the “news” that the supreme leader is perfect, North Korea is perfect at everything, America is bad, and North Korea bombs American cities. “As much as I hate to admit it,” Ha-Joon explains, “Kim Jong Un has the right to tell lies.” The problem, she explains, is that no one in North Korea is allowed to express that they disagree with his lies. Ha-Joon tells the gang that her cousin once spoke out against the government, and Ha-Joon’s entire family was sent to a prison camp without being allowed to ask why.

Ha-Joon miraculously escaped, traveled alone through treacherous territory, and made it to China. A kind Chinese family took her in and helped her travel to South Korea. However, she explains, hardly anyone in North Korea is so lucky. Ha-Joon teaches that we can help the situation in North Korea by telling the stories of its survivors, and by protecting free speech wherever you are, even if you disagree with it. Ethan realizes that, compared to Ha-Joon’s harrowing childhood and the plight of the citizens of North Korea, his problems are not so big. 

“It may seem small, but freedom of speech is always worth defending,” Ha-Joon reminds him. She explains that she’s grateful she now has the freedom to tell her story, however painful, because it can help make the world a better place for those who can’t speak their minds.

Flash-forward to Election Day; the kids’ club is assembled, decked out with their Karinne buttons, and ready to vote. Karinne shows her last campaign video—one that demeans and denigrates Ethan, telling all sorts of lies about his life and plans for the presidency. The video ends with a blunt but powerful statement: “Vote for Karinne because Ethan stinks.”

Now knowing the power of truth, reason, and persuasion, Ethan shows a positive video showcasing his and Emily’s accomplishments, and that he’s willing to work with kids he disagrees with. The kids cheer, toss their Karinne buttons, and vote Ethan in by a landslide. The kids finally see through Karinne’s vicious lies. 

Angry, Ethan’s new constituents start to demand that Karinne not be allowed to lie anymore or make mean statements. Ethan, however, takes a stand. “Everyone has a right to free speech, even Karinne. Still hurt by what you said, by the way,” Ethan admits, “but I’m gonna defend her right to say it. If we all come together and honestly speak our minds, we can do great things.” The kids apologize to Karinne, who insists she doesn’t need Ethan’s help.

Defeated, Karinne ziplines home, where her parents punish her for losing by ordering her to sit and ponder what she’d done, under the angry gaze of their study’s giant painting of Karl Marx. Karinne questions why she’s losing control of the neighborhood kids, and suddenly realizes that Gabby is the common thread.

Under the cloak of night, Karinne sneaks into Gabby’s room, fending Derek off with a smelly sock. She finds and boards Gabby’s time-traveling wheelchair, accidentally setting off a few alarms. Gabby stirs. “Who’s there?” She asks, half asleep. “I said, don’t travel to the future,” she mutters mysteriously before drifting back to sleep.

Karinne pulls up the wheelchair’s holographic database and, within a folder entitled “things the twins must NEVER know,” discovers a mysterious photo of Gabby posing with some futuristic robots. The episode ends with a call from Karinne to some mysterious black hats, who arrive at the Tuttles’ residence the very next day with an arrest warrant.

Image of Karinne

What Did We Learn in “Free Speech Freestyle”?

When Karinne spreads slanderous lies about Ethan in hopes of deterring his campaign for Kids’ Club President, the twins must learn why all free speech needs to be protected—even when it’s offensive or outright untrue.

When the twins want to suppress Karinne’s lies and take away her voice, Grandma Gabby takes the two back to meet James Madison, one of the authors of the Bill of Rights. The president explains to the twins that freedom of speech is absolutely essential, even for those with whom we disagree. 

Then, on their way to a concert in a different dimension, Gabby whisks the twins away to pick up Ha-Joon, a woman who escaped a North Korean prison camp as a child. The twins discover that the citizens of North Korea have had their free speech taken away, and are severely punished for speaking out against their tyrannical government. 

Armed with this newfound respect for the First Amendment rights of all their fellow citizens, Ethan and Emily return to the present day and attend the Kids’ Club presidential election. Though it would be far easier to use the rising crowd to take away Karinne’s voice, Ethan declares his intention to preserve her right to free speech, no matter what she might choose to say. Ethan’s integrity and resolve win him the election after all. 

Image of Ethan and Emily Tuttle

Be Like Ethan & Emily 

It’s not always easy to defend the First Amendment. Sometimes, others say things that are either mean or untrue, and they can convince a lot of people with their hurtful words. However, just like James Madison and Ha-Joon taught Ethan and Emily, these people have the right to say what they do, and we can defend ourselves, our friends, and our reputations with truth and reason instead of censorship. 

Parents, you can help your kids understand the importance of free speech. Teach them about this fundamental liberty and their responsibility to defend it.

How can you teach your children about freedom of speech?

  • Brainstorm the potential consequences if our government were to suppress freedom of speech and abolish the First Amendment.

  • Teach them about the freedom of the press. Look through news articles on current events, read the opinions of those on both sides of the issue, and discuss the importance of free media.

  • Discuss the Founding Fathers and their philosophies and impact on freedom of speech.

  • Delve into the topic of North Korea, and teach them how totalitarian regimes restrict free speech. Examine the consequences of this practice.

Tuttle Twins is packed with timeless lessons on topics vital to being a good citizen. Use the wisdom in each episode as a springboard into important discussions with your children.

Image of Ethan, Emily, and Grandma Gabby

Support Tuttle Twins 

Tuttle Twins is unlike any show you’ve ever seen. This series combines wit and education to make for an engaging experience for all ages.

Ready for more Tuttle Twins? This episode is followed by the first season’s finale, entitled “The Fight for the Future”. When two mysterious federal agents arrive to arrest Grandma Gabby for her time-traveling tech, the twins visit an ominous future society and must fight to preserve liberty for generations to come. 

Your family is sure to discover hours of laughter and lessons with the Tuttle Twins series. Stream the show for free in the Angel Studios app or at Angel.com/TuttleTwins. 

You can help us continue to produce episodes of Tuttle Twins and take your favorite time-traveling gang–and their liberty-loving lessons–to fans around the world. Pay it Forward and be part of the production of this fan-favorite series.

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