PASADENA, Calif. -- To hear Sarah Michelle Gellar talk, Buffy not only slays vampires but she provides a good role model for teenage girls. As silly as that might sound, she does have a point -- Buffy is smart, assertive and can take care of herself without being rescued by the males who surround her.

And Gellar is right when she points out that TV hasn't always provided such great role models for teenage girls."Growing up, the shows that I watched were 'Facts of Life,' 'Growing Pains' and 'Family Ties,' " she said. "On 'Growing Pains,' you had Tracey Gold play the character that was supposed to be very, very smart and she was always pretending to be dumb because she wanted the guys to like her. Or Mallory was the popular girl on 'Family Ties' and she couldn't add two and two.

"And I think it's hard for girls to have somebody to relate to. I kept thinking -- but that's not cool to me."

Buffy, on the other hand, is cool. And she's neither dumb nor does she feel the need to pretend to be.

"I think the wonderful thing about this trend is that young girls have something to look up to -- (characters) that can take care of themselves," Gellar said. "I also think that part of the appeal is that she's an individual. Buffy's not the most popular. She's not the smartest in school and she's an individual. And I think the hardest thing to learn as a teenager is individuality."

SHE WANTS TO DIE: Gellar, of course, not only stars in "Buffy" but she has starred in both "Scream 2" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer." She and Kevin Williamson, who penned both those movies and is the creator/executive producer of "Dawson's Creek," are good buddies.

"I was there when you shot the pilot of 'Dawson,' " she said. "I stood behind a potted plant watching for a little bit."

And Gellar insists she'd like to do a guest shot on the series.

"I want to get killed on 'Dawson's Creek'!" she exclaimed. "That's what I should do!

"I need to get killed on 'Dawson's. The first, like, person that gets killed by a drunk driver, it's got to be me!"

"But . . . well," Williamson said rather sheepishly -- letting Gellar know it's already too late for her to be the first to die on "Dawson's Creek." (Although that's coming in a future episode.)

"You're killing someone by a drunk driver and it's not me!" said Gellar, feigning great hurt.

"I'm sorry," Williamson said. "It's not a drunk driver. Oh, Sarah, I'm sorry."

At which point Gellar turned from her movie scriptwriter to her TV scriptwriter and said, "Joss (Whedon) is my favorite."

Williamson, looking genuinely chagrined, tried to explain.

"We had to kill somebody," he said. "I couldn't just let the show go on forever without offing somebody. It's what I do.

"I've killed you twice already."

"Third time's a charm," Gellar replied with mock petulance.