The Chilean miniseries Mary & Mike tells the story of a seemingly normal couple. The celebrated writer Mariana Callejas and her husband Michael Townley apparently have a perfect family life. What only few people know: Actually, Mary (a Chilean citizen) and Mike (a US citizen) work for the DINA (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, i.e. the Chilean secret service) and carry out attacks and murders of people critical of the government on their behalf.
The series shows three attacks by Mary and Mike in the years 1974 to 1976. What is depicted in the series is based on true events but is embellished with fictional elements through great artistic freedom. A possible problem here is that the attempt to tell the story as spectacularly as possible trivialises the crimes of the Pinochet dictatorship and especially the violence against women. The series is told from the perspective of Mary & Mike, “the bad guys”, who are easier to empathise with than the victims, who appear much more interchangeable. In an analysis of the series, it is interesting to ask how such a presentation of the story affects the viewers and whether they can distinguish fiction from reality.
Townley and Callejas are still part of Chile’s collective memory and the series initiates discussions about the military dictatorship. The real Mariana Callejas staged herself until her death in 2016 as a victim who remained alone, pushed away by everyone, while Michael Townley presumably still lives in the USA under witness protection and a new identity.
Written by Emilie Sitter