Rupert Murdoch & Jerry Hall: Why marry?

Story highlights

  • Peggy Drexler says some question why Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall would bother getting married at this stage in life
  • She says there are benefits to marrying, especially among older couples, and this union would be on more financially equal footing

Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Mere hours after media mogul Rupert Murdoch and former supermodel Jerry Hall--who married Friday in London--first announced their engagement in a charmingly old-fashioned manner, with a post in the Births, Marriages, and Deaths section of Murdoch's Times of London, the cynics started to edge out the congratulators, with jabs taking aim mostly at Murdoch, mostly for being old.

"Jerry Hall to Wed a Toad," reads the headline on Gawker. The New York Daily News, meanwhile, quotes a source that refers to the couple -- she 59 and he 84 -- as "Beauty and the Beast." (Though consider the source: Murdoch does, after all, own Daily News competitor the New York Post, whose Page Six runs the news in a notably objective manner.)
Peggy Drexler
Age is an easy target, of course, but all jokes aside, it does raise a major question: Why marry, and why now? What, exactly, could be in it for them?
    After all, celebrity marriages seem to fail as often as they succeed, with recent headlines of famous dissolutions including longtime couples Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, and Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn. (Murdoch himself has been married three times before.)
    His and Hall's respective ages mean they likely won't be having kids (though never say never); neither needs the financial security; religion doesn't appear to be a factor. It's not even especially hip. Murdoch is a newsman -- hasn't he heard that marriage is passe?
    Perhaps he has. And perhaps, like many who enter second and third (and fourth) marriages, he doesn't care. After all, despite the growing skepticism about marriage as an institution, and the statistics showing that marriage rates are at a record low, there are benefits to getting married, and especially among older couples.
    People are living longer, and married people even more so. Married couples also earn more money (not that Murdoch needs more). According to studies cited by the National Marriage Project, people in happy marriages are healthier, have more and better sex, and are richer than their unmarried counterparts. Research also shows that the more education and financial independence a woman has, the more likely she is to stay married, which means the fact that Hall doesn't "need" Murdoch's money bodes well for the marriage's longevity.
    In many ways, you could argue the impending union of Murdoch and Hall would represent one of the institution's most modern and feminist-minded takes: Marriage is no longer about "need" -- needing a man to take care of you financially, or needing a woman to cook you dinner, iron your shirts and raise your children.
    Even if most men still prefer the security of marriage, it's no longer rooted in the sorts of ideas present in Hall's '80s-era statement that she's "always felt the man is king of the house and should be amused and treated well."
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    That's not to say we can't assume there may be at least a little retribution at play here. Murdoch's split from his third wife, Wendi Deng, was high-profile and undoubtedly humiliating. Though Deng denied having an affair with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, a good friend and godfather to one of Murdoch and Deng's two children, speculation headlined news here and abroad for months. (Blair denied it too.)
    Hall's "marriage" to longtime partner Mick Jagger, meanwhile, was proved, during the couple's 1999 divorce proceedings, to be invalid. "We were never married," he argued, despite a 1990 ceremony and four children. The argument was, to be certain, about money; still, it had to be hurtful, and especially since 15 years later, despite having forged a successful career in her own right, Hall is still most often referred to as Mick Jagger's former something-or-other.
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    That's likely to end now. A marriage to Murdoch comes with enormous wealth, power and an international platform that's far greater than Jagger's. Hall and Murdoch's red carpet appearance over the weekend at the Golden Globes likely garnered more attention than Hall (or, it should be mentioned, Wendi Deng) had had in years. And although she has plenty of her own money -- Hall earned a reported $40 million in the split -- Murdoch, whose net worth is estimated at $12.4 billion, has a heck of a lot more. (Jagger, by the way, weighs in at a reported $300 million.)
    Payback? Perhaps. But, then, if a marriage between independent individuals in pursuit of love and companionship and irrespective of need -- sprinkled with a bit of entirely natural "look at me now" revenge -- isn't wholly modern, I don't know what is.