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EXTRA: 'Buffy' Slays 1980s TV Icons!

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Jul 06, 2001 | 10:39am EDT

Et tu, Sarah Michelle Gellar?

Sarah Michelle Gellar Isn't it bad enough that the ages have wreaked havoc on the sitcom statures of Mallory Keaton and Carol Seaver? Isn't it bad enough that TBS relegates "Family Ties" reruns to the freakin' crack of dawn? Isn't it bad enough that there are children out there who know "Growing Pains" only as "That Sitcom Leonardo DiCaprio Used to Do Before He Was Famous?" Do you, Miss Entertainment-Weekly-Thinks-I'm-Cool, have to go and plunge your vampire-slaying knife into their backs?

Apparently.

In the Feb. 19 edition of TV Guide, Gellar goes Jennifer Lopez on Mallory (the dear, innocent Keaton as played by Justine Bateman on "Family Ties") and Carol (the dear, bookish Seaver as played by Tracey Gold on "Growing Pains'"). With the same sort of venom in which the aforementioned Lopez went after Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow in an infamous 1998 Movieline interview, Gellar calls Mallory "an idiot"; Carol, an anti-role model.

Read it and weep: "[Young women] respond to Buffy because for years we didn't have a character young girls could look up to," Gellar tells the magazine, by way of explaining her status as the esteemed star of WB's "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer." "Mallory on 'Family Ties' was an idiot. Carol on 'Growing Pains' wasn't happy being smart; she wanted to be popular. Those were not role models."

If Gellar figured Mallory and Carol would not respond to her unkind words because, well, they're not real people and therefore can't really speak, she was sorely mistaken. Mallory and Carol have friends who will speak for them.

Justine Bateman as Mallory Keaton Yeah.

"Mallory's character certainly had an innocent charm to her, but she was not an idiot," counters Shawn McNulty, designer of the "Family Ties" Page (http://members.tripod.com/~blwagener/). "Sitcom writing was different 15 years ago. These days sitcoms are trying a little too hard to be witty, and it just turns to cynicism."

And besides, says McNulty, Gellar's comments are "fairly 'idiotic'" -- as is her series. (Meow!)

"... [By contrast,] 'Family Ties' was easily one of the best-written sitcoms of all time," McNulty says. "The cast was brilliant, and they knew how to act. Mallory was part of the well-rounded group of characters. Her interests lied in areas that the show never really pursued."

Lisa R. Johnson of The '80s Server (www.80s.com) -- the online bible for all things Reagan Era -- agrees that Mallory Keaton was, too, not dumb. "Mallory was very knowledgeable about fashion, music, social activities and men -- the things that make life worth living," Johnson says.

But what of Carol Seaver? Was she really the sad, pathetic figure that Ms. Gellar would have us believe? No, says Johnson. "Both women [Mallory and Carol] were iconic representations of women in the '80s -- falling at opposite ends of the female spectrum but nevertheless bringing into our homes what the rest of the media was portraying worthwhile women to be," she says.

In Johnson's book, Mallory symbolized the 1980s obsession with the supermodel while Carol was the decade's Sandra Day O'Connor -- the smart girl who could grow up to be a U.S. Supreme Court Judge. (Yes, apparently, even "Growing Pains" had subtext.)

"Both women were following their true nature and their true calling but found their roles hard to live with because the people around them always wanted 'more,'" Johnson says.

In Mallory's case, McNulty argues that the character, perhaps, only appeared stupid compared with Alex P. Keaton, her Young Republican of an elder brother portrayed by Michael J. Fox on the 1982-89 series.

There was no word on what Gellar thinks of Alex.

In fact, after trashing Mallory and Carol, the 22-year-old Daytime Emmy winner held fire on other 1980s icons, training her guns instead on the likes of ex-"Baywatch" lifeguard Nicole Eggert (one of those "actresses ... who are so physically perfect you can never be like them), Keri Russell (TV Guide says Gellar rolled her eyes when asked about the "Felicity" star's virginity confessions to a national mag), anorexia rumors ("It's like McCarthyism all over again!") and her father ("He is not a person who exists in my life.").

But if Gellar is out of barbs, the Mallory/Carol defenders are not. Says McNulty: "I think Ms. Gellar should invest in a Roth IRA because there is no talent there."

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