Fallen Idols re-litigates Nick Carter sexual assault allegations and asks questions about toxic fan culture

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Backstreet Boys - Nick Carter,  Brian Littrell, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson.
Backstreet Boys - Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson. Credit: Supplied/TheWest

“The music you fall in love with when you’re 13 years old, you are always in love with.”

That truism comes from Dave Holmes, an MTV VJ speaking as an expert in the four-part documentary Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter. And it goes a long way to explaining the heightened reaction from Backstreet Boys fans to multiple allegations of sexual assault against Nick.

The docuseries will be available next week in Australia on Foxtel, Binge and Fetch but screened over two nights in the US this week, and has reignited the fiery mess surrounding former teen pop star Nick and his tragic younger brother Aaron.

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Sexual assault allegations against Nick first surfaced in 2017 and, to date, three women have claimed he raped or assaulted them. Nick has consistently denied the accusations.

The three women – former Dream singer Melissa Schuman, Shannon Ruth and Ashley Repp – have all filed civil suits against the Backstreet Boys frontman, and he has countersued them for libel. All the cases are still pending.

Schuman, Ruth and Repp form the backbone of the docuseries as they detail the incidents in which they claim Nick assaulted them at the height of the Backstreet Boys’ fame. It also went into how younger brother Aaron, who died in 2022, publicly supported Schuman, Ruth and Repp, before backtracking a few years later.

Melissa Schuman
Melissa Schuman is one of the accusers against Nick Carter. Credit: Ashley Repp/Warner Bros Discover

In the wake of the documentary, Nick’s lawyer, Dale Hayes Jr, gave a statement to outlets including BBC, People and The Hollywood Reporter, vociferously denying the women’s allegations. He said, “These are exactly the same outrageous claims that led us to sue this gang of conspirators.

“Those cases are working their way through the legal system now, and based on both the initial court rulings and the overwhelming evidence, we have every belief that we will prevail and hold them accountable for spreading falsehoods.”

While the cases are still being litigated in court, what Fallen Idols also delves into is toxic family environment of the Carter siblings, and the intensity of the reaction from the Backstreet Boys fanbase, especially to Schuman’s claims.

When Schuman in 2017 shared her story on her personal blog, she experienced a surge of online vitriol from trolls who claimed to be ardent fans and defenders of Nick. They lobbed awful accusations at her, told her she was a liar – and they were the minor insults.

She told the documentary, “The stuff that they would say online would go beyond just, ‘I don’t believe you’. It would be like, ‘Please, go kill yourself’.

“The harassment was so intense that it was bad for me and my family. I mean, I called a suicide hotline. I felt so overwhelmed. And I felt so alone.”

Schuman said she was doxed by the uber fans, meaning they posted her phone number and address publicly.

Backstreet Boys - Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson, AJ McLean, Nick Carter, Brian Littrell
The Backstreet Boys continue to tour. Credit: Supplied/TheWest

Backstreet Boy member AJ McLean called Schuman’s claims “bogus” and when questioned, Brian Littrell said of her, “Unfortunately, there are fame seekers out there”.

Schuman found solace in Kaya Jones, a former Pussycat Dolls member who said she had dated Nick in the early noughties. Jones told the documentary that while Nick was not physically violent with her, he was controlling and jealous, and would “punch walls”.

She said in the documentary, “He wanted to have his way and that’s it. I just couldn’t believe how far he went”.

Jones alluded to an incident involving pornography which precipitated the end of their relationship. While she didn’t detail his demands, she said, “What he asked of me was crossing the line too far for me, he became nasty very quickly”.

The contrast to the accusers were the superfans, who gave testimonials to what they perceived as Nick’s good character. One, named Debra, said in Fallen Idols, “Nick doesn’t have it in him to do that. Nick is not the person they’re trying to make him out to be”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Nick Carter attends the UK Premiere of "Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of" at Dominion Theatre on February 25, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Nick Carter in 2015. He has denied the allegations against him. Credit: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

These are not naïve young fans. These are women in their 30s and 40s, rusted-on Backstreet Boys groupies with a parasocial relationship to their teen idols.

The reaction to Nick’s accusers recalled the vigorous defenders of Johnny Depp, throngs of whom had turned out in person and very much online during his defamation proceedings against ex-wife Amber Heard, who had previously accused the actor of domestic violence.

The depth of hatred towards Heard came as true believers would not hear a word against their faith in their favourite star. Similarly, there are legion of Michael Jackson fans who reacted strongly against the 2019 Leaving Neverland documentary which focused on the accusations that Jackson had abused Wade Robson and James Safechuck when they were children.

Whatever strides MeToo has made, Fallen Idol touches on a pertinent aspect of what happens when celebrities are accused of sexual assault — the fan reaction.

As Fallen Idols showrunner Elissa Halperin told The Hollywood Reporter, “I don’t want to speak for all fans, but there’s definitely a big component of that at play here, and it was a reminder of how personal our connections are to celebrities and music, particularly the ones we fell in love with as kids.”

Fallen Idols is on Foxtel, Fetch and Binge on June 7

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