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Chinese pop star Cai Xukun became a meme this spring when the internet began poking fun at his basketball skills. Now, his lawyers are demanding that users of video site Bilibili take down their viral, satirical videos.

The conflict began when the National Basketball Administration named Cai—long known as a controversial figure for his effeminate look and passionate fan base—as an ambassador for the brand. Cai’s detractors began posting guichu videosa video genre that mixes existing videos with sounds and effects—to joke about his athletic abilities.

In response, Cai’s studio posted an open letter calling for Bilibili to take down videos the studio said were “deliberately defamatory image misuse.”  Many support Cai’s call for Bilibili to remove the offending videos.

Bilibili responded by saying that it was concerned about Cai’s feelings but said the law would have the final say: The company linked to an article listing celebrities who have failed at similar lawsuits.

After Cai sent his open letter, jokes picked up steam on Bilibili—a site not heavily populated by Cai’s fans. Bilibili is not completely open to the wider internet; users must pass an exam to gain permission to post comments.

Some have said the scuffle represents the worst of so-called “idol culture,” in which fans blindly and passionately defend their favorite celebrities in online debates.

Cai rose to fame after debuting on the musical talent show Idol Producer, and later became captain of the musical group Nine Percent. He has a whopping 23 million followers on Weibo and is ranked first on Weibo’s mainland superstar power list.

Shi Jiayi is the Shanghai-based visual reporter helping provide multimedia elements about China’s fast-changing technology and culture. She holds a B.A. in Convergence Journalism from the University...

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