Click to read Part 1 (Snow White), Part 2 (Cinderella), Part 3 (Aurora), Part 4 (Ariel), Part 5 (Belle), Part 6 (Jasmine), Part 7 (Pocahontas), Part 8 (Mulan), Part 9 (Tiana), and Part 10 (Rapunzel).
I don't really know why Merida is part of this list; I really don't. Nor do I particularly want to include her in it. But I said I was going over the twelve official Disney princesses, and Disney gave Merida the whole initiation ceremony at Disneyland (or Disney World? or both?) after Brave came out in 2012, so here we have it. The first Disney princess who came not out of Disney Animation but out of Pixar. This fact alone baffles me because what then does prevent a character like Leia (who does appear animated in Star Wars: Rebels) from becoming a Disney princess? Because Merida is from Pixar, I would prefer not to include her in this list--because along with her different animated heritage, if that's what we can call it, come many different characteristics that separate her from the rest of the group even more so than a character like Moana (who is from Disney Animation but is not considered an official Disney princess).
Merida's story? Proving that she doesn't have to get married just to get married--once again, the same irrelevant to modern times (in this country, that is) theme that we really don't need to focus so much on anymore. And in Merida specifically saying that she doesn't have to marry right now (because there isn't anyone that she wants to marry right now), she's also just saying that she's still a child. (She's sixteen.) Okay. Good for Merida in saying that. But I need more of a theme or plot than that in order to make me praise what Merida brings to the table.
What's that? There is more to the story? Yes, this is true. Merida's character is also all about proving that a female character doesn't have to be all about the soft and traditionally feminine traits. Snow White and Cinderella were good at cleaning. Aurora and Ariel were good at singing. Tiana and Rapunzel liked to cook/bake. And Merida likes to ride her horse and practice archery. I do appreciate that about Merida's character--not because I mind female characters who can clean, sing, or bake. Just because it's good to have other skills/interests in there, as well. And I remember what a big deal people were making about the fact that Merida's toy bow and arrow set was in stores marketed toward girls. Usually the tea sets and play food are marketed toward girls and the toy guns and bows are marketed toward boys (don't get me wrong, I love tea sets, but archery is also pretty awesome). Of course, you don't need to listen to marketing: girls and boys and their parents can choose whatever toys they want. But it was good to see that nice bow and arrow for girls.
The other thing about Merida's story is of course her relationship with her mother. Merida is, of course, one of the few Disney princesses to have both of her parents (she's the fourth one, I believe, though only the second to actually grow up with them). Throughout the movie, Merida shows her mother that just because she doesn't always act like the genteel lady that her mother wants her to be, she still cares about her culture, her people, and her family. It's a similar theme to Mulan's: she brought honor to her family in a completely different way than what everyone had expected.
Now that I've spent all of this time on story, let me go back to just Merida's characteristics. Merida is designed to act natural, not to act like royalty. At Disneyland, she walks with just as specific a gait as Jack Sparrow does (and I slightly resent the fact that Merida is allowed to act like she does in the movie, while other princesses like Belle just all act like the same generic "Disney princess"). She's the second redheaded princess, and her wild mess of hair is its own personification of who she is. If I might add: this is what computer animation allows the artists to do. They could show each curl of hair (Merida is the first princess with curly hair, is she not?) because they didn't have to hand paint it all for every frame.
We have evidence of Merida's kindness mainly through her relationship with her brothers. And while she does have some rebellion to her, it isn't general teenage rebellion like with Ariel: Merida is specifically rebelling to the fact that her mother wants to make her into someone that she isn't and doesn't feel like she can ever (or even should ever) be. Merida's rebellion has purpose--and she achieves that purpose when she gets her mother to see a different angle.
So even though I think that Merida (like they say with Moana) is a different type of character who doesn't necessarily go with the Disney princess group, she does bring some good traits with her.