In a past article I talked about the history of the MPAA and how difficult it's been for them over the years to refine their ratings system to the point where everybody can be happy with it (which is never going to happen). Ratings systems can be confusing things because, due to copyright, every single one has to be different. PG, TV-PG, PSR and E-10 all mean the same thing, but some of those are less recognized than others. And if a PG-13 rated movie airs on TV with a TV-14 rating, does that mean you suddenly have to be one year older to watch it?

Why not just adopt a universal, public domain system for content ratings? That isn't gonna happen because the solution is not that simple. Allowing anyone to create their own definition of PG-13 or NC-17 would result in even more confusion. The MPAA didn't copyright the X rating back in 1968 and it didn't turn out so well for them.

In Canada it's even more convoluted, because every province has its own movie ratings board. Some provinces have had more success than others. I'm specifically calling attention to the British Columbia Film Classification Office, because from 1960 through 1997, they did something very unique: instead of letters or numbers, they used a shape.

Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the Restricted Cougar.

Look at that.

I never thought it possible for a ratings label to be cool, let alone THIS cool. For the first time in my life, I'm sincerely jealous of Canada right now.
The MPAA is so lame! The Vancouver-ians get a cougar and I don't! I want a freakin' cougar!

Why a cougar? Well, why not? He looks badass! ......Actually, the real inspiration was the fact that the cougar is the largest wildcat native to the BC area. It's actually a regional design, like using a lobster to signify R-rated movies released in Maine.

With such a mysterious and powerful image, the Restricted Cougar must have had a GREAT trailer, right?

Um. See for yourself.

I kid you not. This is the trailer they used to warn people about their filthiest, most offensive content.

Those of you who have seen Grindhouse probably thought up until now that Tarantino made that trailer up. No, it was real. Someone needed a parental advisory warning and in response filmed a bunch of kittens playing with string.

That was a strange warning screen. Surely the next one will appear a bit more threatening....


BC used these two adorable trailers before all R-rated movies for a long time. It wasn't until the late 80's that four new trailers were made.

The cougar now appears on the screen with a loud bang followed by an eerie electronic "meeeeeeeeeeow." While this makes him a bit more threatening, his trailers were never completely serious. This one is a bunch of cartoon monkeys flipping through TV channels until they get to one with the cougar on it, screech and run off. Must be Mormons.

The "Bijou Trailer" is perhaps the best Restricted Cougar out of the six that exist, if we're going by accepted standards of quality. If we're judging them by kitsch value, the live-action kittens one wins hands down.

"Poolhall" is kind of....meh. There's not much you can say about it. That's a pool table. Yup.

"Sold Out" is interesting in that it glamorizes the films it's warning about. No one is at the G-rated matinee. There aren't even any people at the Mature theater. Everyone's packed into the Restricted one! Forget Mary Poppins....Scarface is where it's at!

In 1997 the BCFCO revised its ratings system and replaced the Cougar with the boring label "18A." They must have lived to regret it, because just last November, they dug the Cougar back out of limbo and started using it again -- but for a different purpose. The Restricted Cougar is now the mark of arthouse films that would receive an NC-17 by the MPAA.

British Columbia may have stumbled onto something. There were no complaints about the BC ratings system because it was spelled out more clearly than most. Parents weren't lost in confusion about which letters stood for what. Nature did the work for them. If you slap a dangerous animal on there, the message is clear. This is how we can make better ratings systems in America: mascots. If there's a shark silhouette on Lollipop Chainsaw, a snake on Bridesmaids and a tarantula in the corner of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, there's no confusion there. They know to stay away!