Nick Carter Blamed for Fueling Brother Aaron’s Downfall in Stunning Docuseries

Fred Prouser/Reuters
Fred Prouser/Reuters

Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter tells two intertwined stories of victimization. One is about Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter, who’s been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. The other about his estranged younger brother Aaron Carter, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 34 in late 2022.

In its search for an explanation for all this heartache and tragedy, ID’s four-part docuseries (May 29) points the finger in many directions, blaming their parents Jane and Robert, fan culture, Backstreet Boys mastermind Lou Perlman, and a music industry that enabled and shielded predators so long as they remained cash cows. No matter the scope of its critique, however, the real target of its ire is Nick, who’s depicted as a monster who wielded his popularity and influence to coerce underage girls into doing as he pleased—and, afterwards, to silence them.

As with more than a few recent true-crime exposés, Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter is hampered by the fact that its tale remains incomplete. At present, Nick is in the midst of litigation against three women—Melissa Schuman, Ashley Repp, and Shannon “Shay” Ruth—who’ve filed lawsuits alleging sexual assault and battery. Nick has responded with countersuits of his own, claiming that the trio have conspired to defame and vilify him. While he doesn’t participate in director Tara Malone’s docuseries, Nick’s attorneys did provide documents supporting his position that are available at And as he tours and makes more music, he continues to maintain his innocence. The verdict on his culpability, consequently, is still up in the air, turning this series into less of a definitive account than a #MeToo-inspired vehicle for his alleged victims to have their voices heard.

If Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter can’t conclusively condemn Nick as sexual abuser, it has no qualms about painting an extremely unflattering picture of him as an entitled bully who supposedly terrorized girls, alienated his family, and was accused by his brother of being the architect of the online harassment that contributed to his untimely death.

Though he projected a sunshiny all-American image to the public, Nick’s home life was a mess from an early age. As his cousin John Spaulding states, his parents Jane and Robert were constantly drinking and fighting, and upon Nick hitting it big with the Backstreet Boys, they came to rely on the oldest of their five kids to be the clan’s de facto breadwinner. With great power, alas, came great irresponsibility, with Nick using his privilege to assault women—beginning, the series contends, with Melissa Schuman.

An aspiring pop star who’d hit it big with Dream (the brainchild of Sean “Diddy” Combs, who’s currently embroiled in his own scandals), Melissa was on tour as a 15-year-old when her label made it clear that dating another pop star would be beneficial for her career. Despite taking a call from Nick, she balked at this set-up and eventually left Dream. But her and Nick’s paths would cross again in spring 2003 (when she was 18 and he was in his early twenties) on the set of the 2004 TV movie The Hollow. With her friend Rachel by her side, Melissa agreed to go with Nick and his buddy Tony to Nick’s apartment, and as she recounts in Fallen Idols, the sexual assault that ensued was “humiliating and gross” and “completely changed the course of my life.”

Ashley Repp’s ordeal differs only in terms of specifics. A friend of Nick’s sister Angel, she joined the Carters at their Florida Keys compound for the 2003 summer when she was 15 and, as she says, was repeatedly raped by Nick while she was drunk, even in front of his friends. Shay Ruth, who has cerebral palsy as well as autism, states that, after a 2001 Tacoma, Washington concert, Nick similarly preyed upon her in a tour bus.

Aaron Carter Sides With Backstreet Boy Nick Carter’s Rape Accusers as Vicious Family Feud Escalates

There are complications to all their stories: Melissa was pressured to record and perform with Nick even after her assault; Ashley’s police report went nowhere; Shay has made conflicting statements about her encounter with Nick. Nonetheless, the series unquestionably takes their side, casting Nick in an ugly light that’s exacerbated by his ostensibly cruel treatment of Aaron.

Sandwiched between Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter’s castigation of Nick is a snapshot of Aaron’s rise to fame alongside his older sibling, the psychological and emotional toll it took on him, and his eventual devolution into drug abuse, erratic behavior (complete with massive face tattoos), and unhinged social media posts. Through archival material, Aaron—who spoke out on behalf of Melissa and Ashley, only to later recant—is presented as yet another victim of Nick (whom he believed was fueling the online slander he received), along with a social-media troll named Ganval, his horrible parents, and an industry that didn’t look out for him. Aaron comes off as a legitimate casualty of multiple unhealthy forces (along with mental illness), and his role in this affair is a messy one, given that he befriended and stood by Melissa and Ashley at great personal cost, but also was an unstable and untrustworthy individual spiraling out of control.

Mellisa, Ashley, Shay, John, Aaron’s ex-fiancée Melanie Martin and Nick’s ex-girlfriend Kaya Jones (a one-time Pussycat Dolls member) provide first-hand testimony about this madness in Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter, all as journalist Scaachi Koul and former MTV VJ Dave Holmes contextualize their assertions. Formally speaking, it’s a routine package of talking-head soundbites and old photos and video clips, and its penchant for melodrama often undercuts its attempts at gravity. So too does the fact that there’s no resolution to the lawsuits against Nick, leaving everything hanging in the air and threatening to render the proceedings a he said, she said stalemate.

What’s not in doubt, however, is that the Carter family has long been a disaster, such that its rampant dysfunction has played a part in the overdose deaths of three of its five children. Whether bad parenting or celebrity was the culprit, theirs is a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of achieving pop-star dreams—and of thinking that fame gives you the right to indulge in, as the siblings’ cousin puts it, “lawlessness.”

Aaron Carter’s Mother Shares Graphic Photos From the Scene of His Death

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