Also in honor of Barbie's birthday, CBS News' Jane Robelot organized a luncheon at New York's Mark Hotel with playwright Wendy Wasserstein, comedian Julie Halston, and author M.G. Lord, who wrote the book Forever Barbie.
The topic of the day: Our Barbies, Our Selves. Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as Barbie, was "born" 40 years ago. When she came on the scene in 1959, she was available in two career options: airline stewardess and nurse.
Lord: "I mean, she was a revolutionary role model when she came out in the early '60s. Mom was tied to Dad and stuck in the house, and [Barbie] was out there making her own money, not married to anybody. Ken didn't come along until two years later."
Halston: "You're right. There was something about her that was sort of a single woman, and she was sexual. And these other dolls were not. I mean, you felt like she was going out somewhere."
Wasserstein: "She had those dune buggies. She was going somewhere."
Robelot: "But remember when everybody was saying she should be more anatomically correct? Nobody bought that. How long did that last? Two minutes?"
Halston: "This is what always drives me crazy about icons. Everyone says, 'She's a bad role model, with these pumped-up breasts and these skinny legs.' It's a doll! Can we just say those words? It's a doll."
Wasserstein: "I think, as time goes by, she's become more and more the ideal body type. Those people who do aerobics classes in Hawaii on the beach at 2 in the morning - they look like her."
Robelot: "I see those."
Wasserstein: "Do you think there are plastic surgeons who actually take out a Barbie doll and put X's on it with a Magic Marker, and say, 'You can look like this'?"
Robelot: "The bottom line is, though, if little girls don't want to play with her people aren't going to buy it. Why did we like her so much?"
Lord: "It's interesting. Usually, in Barbie play, the dolls are really strong, and Ken is not the dominant character."
All: "Oh, no!"
Lord: "Barbie drives the car. In fact, one pair of little girls that I interviewed the Ken was so insignificant that his principal role in their Barbie play was, he was the valet parking attendant. He brought the cars around for the Barbies. That was it."
Wasserstein: "How old was Barbie supposed to be? I know [in] that Barbie doll [board] game, she was going to the prom."
Lord: "It was very open-ended."
Wasserstein: "[The prom] at age 25? Maybe she was left back I don't know. It's hard to say what message we're sending to girls. But, frankly, I think you've got o give girls a little credit for themselves. They're smart people. There are a lot of girls with a lot of imagination, with a lot of ambition, with a lot of personality. They can make things up themselves."
Halston: "I think it's important to take the good aspects of Barbie, which is that she was a gal on the go. She was doin' things. She was a girl who was out there. She was in the world."
Robelot: "Where do you project Barbie going? Will she change?"
Lord: "I called my book Forever Barbie because I think she'll be around forever. This little thing does not biodegrade. If they are selling every two seconds, you have to imagine at least two of them are buried every two seconds in some landfill."