50 Years Of Barbie

She's been in the spotlight as long as we can remember - though she never seems to age. But Barbie Millicent Roberts turned 50 Monday. CBS News anchor Katie Couric reports that you probably know her better as just Barbie.

Since 1959, it has been fantastic to be plastic. And from the beginning, it was clear that Barbie was not your grandmother's doll.

"Barbie was a revolutionary toy, unlike other dolls," said M.G. Lord, the author of "Forever Barbie." "Baby dolls that taught little girls to nurture. Barbie taught them a whole other way of playing."

They also taught that women can be much more in life than arm candy. In fact, that was Ken's job.

"From the get-go he was an accessory," Lord said. "A gnat, a fly."

Singe and self-sufficient, Barbie was ahead of her curves when it came to the women's movement. Early on, she had jobs like fashion model and flight attendant. By 1965, she was an astronaut, nearly 20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. And nurse Barbie because surgeon Barbie in 1973, when just 10 percent of doctors were women. Now, a third of them are.

But, some say, don't give Barbie too much credit.

Part of the difficult with Barbie is that it's all predicated, it's all based, on the way she looks," said Susie Orbach, the author of "Bodies."

Barbie has looks that Orbach says contribute to self-esteem issues in young girls.

"It's always about performing the role, looking that role," Orbach said.

The "airhead Barbie" rap was reinforced when the Teen Talk version complained about math class. Some feminist activists were so annoyed, they replaced her voice box with that of G.I. Joe that said, "Vengeance is mine."

Barbie has always reflected the times. Now Mattel has a Barbie that comes with tattoos. But so far, no pierced-tongue Barbie.

While Barbie still shops until she drops, sales are down. So Mattel is expanding its $3 billion worldwide market to China, where the first Barbie store opened in Shanghai this past weekend.

And this week, Barbie, sporting an updated version of her original swimsuit will be available for the original price of $3. And 50 years later, even without plastic surgery, she's still buff and wrinkle free.
  • Katie Couric

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