Into every generation, a cult favorite TV series is born.
In March 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered, making its debut on The WB as a midseason replacement for the shortlived soap Savannah.
No one expected the sci-fi-meets-coming-of-age show about a 16-year-old blonde, played by All My Children alum Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is balancing honing her vampire slayer skills and getting her homework done on time. After all, the 1992 movie of the same name didn't exactly instill faith in the project, with creator Joss Whedon even walking off the set when the film took on a different, more comedic tone than he imagined.
Slowly but surely, the show developed a rabid following of fans, who were drawn to the star-crossed romances, the quippy dialogue, the engaging mythology and the all-too-relatable idea that high school can feel like a literal hellmouth. Buffy and her friends Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) made being uncool seem cool and you wanted to be part of their Scooby gang. Add in a love triangle for the ages and no amount of garlic or crosses could keep fans away.
BtVS ended its seven-season run in 2003, but its legacy has endured, with Buffy Summers still serving as one of TV's most definitive feminist icons, a superhero with a stake, if you will—though its legacy has somewhat been tarnished in recent years due to allegations of misconduct and verbal abuse being levied against Whedon by star Charisma Carpenter.
Following Carpenter's 2021 post about the mistreatment she endured, Gellar took to Instagram to show support for her former co-star, writing, "While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don't want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon."
Despite the controversy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's impact on the TV world and its loyal fans has endured, with Gellar, who celebrated her 46th birthday on April 14, still serving as one of the defining faces of female badassery, both in pop culture and at home.
In 2019, Gellar recounted to E! News her husband Freddie Prinze Jr. showed their son Rocky that "women kick butt too" after the then 7-year-old was talking about how "men kick butt."
"[Rocky] was like, 'What do you mean?' And I saw Freddie pulled up—there's like a YouTube thing of the best Buffy action sequences or whatever," she explained. "And he was showing it to Rocky and Rocky said, 'That looks like my mom! And I said, 'That is your mom!' And he was like, 'Oh!'"
Along with her own kids, younger generations have been discovering the show consistently since it went off the air.
"I think that's what's so great," Gellar said. "You always want to be a part of something that's impactful…that has a legacy that holds up. And I think that's what's so incredible about the show, is that while it was relevant when it was made, it's still relevant today and that it still touches people and still has that same emotional impact."
So grab some Scooby snacks and sharpen your stakes as we're revealing behind-the-scenes secrets about Buffy the Vampire Slayer in honor of SMG's big day: