by tara thorne

america's first silver-screen darling was a Canadian.

Mary Pickford was a silent-film superstar in the early 1900s, a founder of both United Artists Corporation (with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and future hubby Douglas Fairbanks) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or Where Oscars Come From. Her curly blonde hair and childlike features caused some long-dead wags to almost instantly dub her "America's Sweetheart," even though she was from Toronto.

Luckily for you, sort of, Canadians are a giving bunch (one with an inferiority complex, at that). We gave you a film pioneer, then waited a few decades and gave you a few seminal singer-songwriters in Joni Mitchell (from Fort Macleod), Robbie Robertson (Toronto), and Neil Young (Toronto). A couple more filmmakers--David Cronenberg (Toronto), Norman Jewison (Toronto)--here, a few news boys--Morley Safer (Toronto), Arthur Kent (Medicine Hat), Peter Jennings (Toronto)--there, some actors--Donald Sutherland (Bridgewater), Margot Kidder (Yellowknife), Christopher Plummer (Toronto)--and one iconic television pioneer--Captain Kirk (Montreal)--made Canada's contributions to the American entertainment industry respectful and modest, like we are.

But then America, as is its wont, started getting it all wrong.

First, you gave Alan Thicke (Kirkland Lake) his own series, one that lasted for eight years, at that. Then you put Alex Trebek (Sudbury) at the helm of Jeopardy!, where he's been sporting a bad moustache and mangling accents like an anti-Streep for almost 20 years.

But that was in the '80s, and we all made mistakes then. Now, people who wouldn't even get the lead in a Calgary dinner theatre production of Grease are some of your biggest stars. Like dickhead director James Cameron (Kapuskasing). Rubber-faced moron Jim Carrey (Newmarket). Pamela Anderson (Ladysmith), setting her gender back two years every time she leaves the house. Cheesy pop-country fashion nightmare Shania Twain (Timmins), who never met an exclamation point she didn't like. Anorexic chest-beating geezer-humper Celine Dion (Charlemagne), who's not even 40 and already doing Vegas for a living. Mike Myers (Scarborough), who may be a proud Canadian but lost his self-respect around the time he started eating his own skin on-camera in the third Austin Powers. Nickelback (backwoods Alberta), the blandest rock band who ever blanded, and ugly too. Blink-182 photocopies Sum 41 (Ajax). Nerdy David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer (Thunder Bay or, if you're to believe The Simpsons, a Toronto bus station). Saturday Night Live honcho Lorne Michaels (Toronto). The guy from T.J. Hooker. Sideburned teen sensation Jason Priestley (Vancouver). The trifecta of comics who were once really, really famous briefly and so people still give them work: Howie Mandel (Toronto), Dan Aykroyd (Ottawa), and Rick Moranis (Toronto). Tom Green (Ottawa), people. Tom Green! Whose dillhole tendencies literally cause people to say out loud, "He makes me embarrassed to be Canadian."

We don't apologize for Mitchell and Young--though we wish American music magazines would stop including them on lists like "The Best 100 American Records Ever"--or for Alanis Morissette (Ottawa) or Diana Krall (Nanaimo) or Eugene Levy (Hamilton). Some people would give you their deepest condolences for Avril Lavigne (Napanee), but not me.

We can and will, if you prompt us, apologize for Anne Murray (Springhill), Gordon Lightfoot (Orillia) and Sebastian Bach (Peterborough). We're truly sorry for them. And David Frum (Toronto), who can stay on the Washington side of the axis of dual citizenship.

But it's hard to feel sorry for you when you're handing Jim Carrey 20-million dollar cheques and building Celine Dion her own theatre. Or giving Will & Grace's Eric McCormack (Toronto) an Emmy. Or making space for William Shatner on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Or letting milquetoast anchor Keith Morrison (Lloydminster) contribute to Dateline (he's also Ottawa native Matthew Perry's stepfather). Or giving Pamela Anderson a column in Jane. Or letting Shania Twain perform at the Super Bowl. Or letting Tom Green do anything.

You can keep these losers. We've got great artists here, wonderful musicians and actors you'll never know, and we will laugh as you pick over them to fill your latest trendy entertainment slot. Like indie rock snobs, we don't want you to have our best. Keep our worst and give them all your money. You obviously haven't learned anything in 100 years, so why start now?