Happy Birthday, Barbie!

It was 50 years ago today that the Barbie doll made its debut at the New York Toy Show. The favorite doll of many little girls for the past half century is also a favorite of collectors. BBC News has an article about a woman in Germany who has over 6,000 of the dolls, basically filling her entire house with them. Needless to say, her 17-year-old daughter isn't as enthused as her mother is:
As Bettina enthuses, there is a passive indifference from her 17-year old-daughter, Melissa.

Like most young girls, she liked Barbie once. And like most young girls, she grew out of it.

But given the scale of her mum's collection, she is beyond being embarrassed and discreetly heads to her room with a friend.

Well, all teenagers are embarrassed by their parents, but I'd say that Melissa has more reason to be than many.

Growing up in a household that only had boys, we didn't have Barbie dolls. We had G.I. Joes, back in the day when G.I. Joe was the same height as a Barbie doll, before they shrank them down. The military action figures (NOT dolls!) didn't have flowing locks like Barbie; their hair was plastic, or else some kind of short fuzz. And of course, they had cool stuff like guns and grenades. We also had the Major Matt Mason ("Mattel's Man In Space!") action figures. This was back in the late 1960s, of course, when every kid wanted to be an astronaut.

So are Barbie dolls bad for fostering an unreasonable body image to young girls or are they good for allowing Barbie to have 108 different careers and showing those same young girls that many different career paths are open to them besides homemaker? (We won't go into Barbie's mid-life crisis back in 2004 when she threw poor Ken over for the Australian pool boy.)