The launch of the movie version of Ender's Game was beset by controversy caused by the anti-homosexuality views of Osron Scott Card, the author of the original book. The book doesn't itself contain any obvious anti-gay message but activists really took against the author.

Having said this, the nickname for the insect-like aliens in the book is "Buggers" (presumably because they are bugs). But the movie uses a different nickname, "formics" (presumably because they resemble ants).

Was the name changed because of the controversy and sensitivity over the misapplication of the bugger name or was there a better reason to adopt a different nickname?

  • 1
    'Buggers' is slightly offensive in British English.... could be for this reason? Could give offense, or unwanted amusement as its slightly archaic too.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 1, 2014 at 18:02
  • I can see that cautious marketing executives might think so, but I don't know anyone who was offended by its use in the book in the UK or elsewhere. So if that was the reason, I think they were overreacting.
    – matt_black
    Jan 1, 2014 at 18:12
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    Overreaction or not - at the very least to mainstream viewers who have not read the book - the term is likely to cause unwanted amusement at the very least.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 1, 2014 at 18:13
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    It actually makes sense for humans to refer to the formics with an offensive epithet during the war, the same way different sides in conflicts on Earth have often referred to the opposing forces with demeaning terms either due to dislike/hatred or as a method of dehumanization (and still do, really).
    – JAB
    Feb 1, 2016 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


Reading into this on Wikipedia, it seems that Formics is the correct 'scientific' name of the species, and a term that is increasingly used as the book series progresses. Buggers as you say is a 'nickname', a pejorative term for the species.

As for the movie adaptation, I can imagine that they received advice that for British English (and perhaps other English language countries) that Bugger is both mildly offensive and a slightly comical and archaic term - likely to detract rather than enhance the experience. I'd like to find a specific reference for this, but it is certainly the case that the term is comically offensive at least, and seriously offensive to some.

Given the root of the term as a pejorative for male homosexuals and for certain sexual acts, and Mr Scott Card's well advertised opinions, it may be that the producers also wished to avoid the controversy, and may also not go on record as to why the term was not used.

  • Plausible, but is there any evidence?
    – matt_black
    Jan 1, 2014 at 18:13
  • @matt_black I'm going to search for a definitive reference, but I imagine that the producers and director keep rather quiet about this.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 1, 2014 at 18:14
  • @matt_black - it is also definitively the case that even in the books the term is decreasingly used, perhaps OSC himself got some feedback from publishers.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 1, 2014 at 18:15

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