If you look closely at the picture of former model Jerry Hall and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch all glammed up and cozy at the Golden Globes, the image is not jarring.
He is 84 and she is 59. He does not look like her father. They don't look age-inappropriate. They look happy. They look perfectly well matched, which is a good thing since they are recently engaged.
The two made the big announcement with a small notice in the British newspaper The Times, part of Murdoch's enormous News Corporation, which also includes the Wall Street Journal. It seems that the two have been dating since late summer and are now looking forward to planning their wedding. Congratulations!
People are always intrigued when famous folks announce their impending nuptials. But this is a particularly noteworthy duo.
Marriage number four
This will be Murdoch's fourth marriage. His last one was to Wendi Deng Murdoch, a Yale-educated businesswoman and film producer. During the News Corporation hacking scandal, she famously intercepted a pie – with a volleyball-style spike – that was aimed at her husband while he was testifying before the British Parliament.
He went hunting for a trophy wife. She was looking for a fat bank account. And if that is the case, the ick factor is undeniable.
This will be Hall's first marriage, technically. She had a lengthy career walking the runways of major design houses. After dating singer Bryan Ferry, she had a two decades-long relationship with rock star Mick Jagger, with whom she had four children and a splashy 1990 wedding ceremony in Bali that turned out not to be legally binding.
There is a 25-year age difference between Murdoch and Hall, which is significant, and makes the mind consider the usual cliches: He went hunting for a trophy wife. She was looking for a fat bank account. And if that is the case, the ick factor is undeniable.
While there is something straightforward and easy about that sort of arrangement – no complicated emotions to gum up the relationship – it reinforces the notion that a woman's worth is measured by her appearance and a man's by his financial success. It does neither party any good to be judged in such a superficial manner. But at least the man has some amount of control over his net worth. No one wins the battle with age.
An interesting life
But when you look at the two of them together, the image tells a different story. Each one looks their age. He is a billionaire many times over. But her estimated net worth is in the vicinity of US$15 million ($21.6m), which most people would find quite sufficient.
Hall, who left Texas for Paris as a 16-year-old to begin her modelling career, does not have all the scholastic accomplishments of Deng, but she is more than a decade older and arguably has led a far more interesting life.
In social media discussions of the engagement, there is an undercurrent of sniffing disdain. Well, of course, he'd go for a model. But the judgment seems based not on who Hall is now, but on who she once was and the way those images are seared into the culture's collective memory.
She is forever remembered in the frame of a paparazzi shot – her long blonde hair, the endless legs and the big toothy smile. She is on the arm of Ferry and, later, Jagger; she is strutting down a runway wearing some high-concept fashion concoction that makes her look like a cyborg vixen or well-dressed concubine; she is captured in the smoky swirl of a party.
The Texan and the Aussie
Perhaps people remember her voice, that heavy Texas twang that always seemed to unwind in slow motion. But Hall, like so many models, was rarely ever heard. She was a face – or a body – frozen in our memory. (Only recently have models had access to social media, which allows them to add dimension – real or trumped up – to their public persona.) And that is how she stubbornly remains.
We don't see the reality. Which is Murdoch – the feisty octogenarian – marrying a woman old enough to have her own retirement card. We see him marrying the woman who epitomised 1970s glamour. The one who stole Jagger from Bianca, wrote multiple tell-all biographies and inspired artists from Ed Ruscha to Lucian Freud.
But that was a woman from another time, from another era. Hall auctioned off a trove of artwork in 2010 and mostly she has stayed out of the public eye. Indeed, she and Murdoch met in a very sedate manner. They were introduced by family. Their public outings have hardly been subversive. They have included the Rugby World Cup final and a trip to see "Hamilton," the hit Broadway musical, as well as the Golden Globes.
The two seem like a fine fit. After all, 84 isn't synonymous with decrepit. Models don't remain leggy rabblerousers forever. And do any of us really know what goes on inside someone else's relationship?